Fuzzy Dark Matter: Hiding in the Shadowlands of the Universe

The vast majority of the enigmatic Universe is shrouded in darkness. The smallest of the three members of the cosmic litter is the so-called “ordinary” atomic matter that makes up the world we are most familiar with. Scientists believe that 25% of the Cosmos is made up of a mysterious exotic kind of substance known as dark matter. But what exactly is this peculiar type of non-atomic matter that is supposed to have been the catalyst for the formation of the first galaxies to dance in the early Universe? Over the years, a number of suggestions have been put up, but the identity of this mysterious exotic substance has not been established. A group of astronomers presented a novel theory in October 2019 that the dark matter is actually “fuzzy”.

About 13.8 billion years after the Big Bang, when the universe first began, dark matter particles would have combined to form clusters inside gravitational “halos.” The gas was drawn into the clusters’ centers by the surrounding clouds of gas, which gradually cooled and condensed into the earliest galaxies. Although dark matter is thought to represent the “backbone” of the Universe’s large-scale structure, little is actually understood about it. This mysterious stuff has been very discreet.

The primordial Universe and the first galaxies, however, would have appeared substantially differently depending on the true nature of the enigmatic ghostly and invisible substance, according to a team of scientists from MIT, Princeton, and the University of Cambridge. The dark matter only interacts with “regular” atomic matter through the force of gravity, which makes it transparent or invisible. The team has created a simulation of what early galaxy formation would have looked like if dark matter had been “fuzzy” as opposed to “cold” or “warm.”

The most popular theory states that the ghostly matter is “cold,” meaning it is made up of slowly moving particles that, aside from gravitational effects, do not interact with “regular” atomic matter. Theoretically, “warm” dark matter would move more swiftly since it would be a little bit lighter than “cold” dark matter.

The idea of fuzzy dark matter is quite recent. It is something altogether distinct, and if the fuzzy substance does exist, it is believed to be made up of extremely light particles with masses that are each just a tiny fraction of an electron’s. In comparison, a “cold” dark matter particle would have a mass that is roughly 10 to the fifth power times more than that of an electron.

The researchers found that in their supercomputer simulations that the primordial galaxies that were born in the early Universe would have taken shape in roughly spherical halos if dark matter particles are “cool”. In contrast, the old Universe would have appeared substantially differently if the unusual material had a truly “fuzzy” or “warm” quality. In this scenario, long filaments with a tail-like shape would give birth to galaxies first. These filaments would have seemed striated—like the strings of a harp on fire with starlight—in a “fuzzy” dark matter Cosmos.

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Astronomers may be able to determine, based on the pattern of galaxy formation, whether the nature of the dark matter, which makes up nearly 85% of the matter in the Cosmos, is “fuzzy” rather than “warm” or “cold” as new telescopes come online with the ability to peer further back in time to the ancient Cosmos.

“What kind of dark matter we have today may be revealed by studying the first galaxies in the early Universe. We can exclude that hypothesis if we don’t witness this filament pattern, in which case fuzzy dark matter is feasible. Now that we have a plan for doing this, “Dr. Mark Vogelsberger revealed in a press release from MIT on October 3, 2019. At the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at MIT, he teaches physics as an associate professor.

Along with Dr. Philip Mocz of Princeton University, Dr. Anastasia Fialkov of Cambridge University, and Dr. Vogelsberger, the paper’s lead author, it will be published in the Physical Review Letters journal on October 3, 2019. (previously of the University of Sussex).

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