Friday, August 08, 2008

Not So Smooth: Dark Matter in Lumps and Clumps

video

A team of cosmologists in the U.S. and Switzerland have created the most complex and intricate dark matter computer simulation yet. For a month, they followed what happens to billions of dark matter particles 20 years after the Big Bang, over a span of 13.7 billion years. The simulation provides, for the first time, a dazzling panoply of the dark matter structure of a typical galaxy; all the way down to extremely tiny, detailed scales. To view a bit of the action, check out the video above.

Dark matter doesn't give off light or heat, its invisible stuff that takes up a whole lot of space in the universe. As one can imagine, this makes understanding its composition very difficult. Scientists known dark matter exists because it appears to have mass, and therefore interacts with gravity.

In the past, scientists believed the obscure substance formed in smooth halos in the centers of galaxies. The new findings show that dark mater isn't quite as smooth-it aggregates in dense lumps and clumps. The discovery adds to what little is known about the nature of dark matter, and will more importantly fuel future research towards an understanding of what makes up the mysterious stuff.

The model is based on the cold or slow moving theory of dark matter. Accepted by most physicists, the theory suggests that cold dark matter is composed of stuff large enough to move slowly, forming in cold, large, clumps over time.

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