Dark matter accounts for more than 85 percent of the substance in the Universe, and yet, no one has ever seen or interacted with it. The mystery substance is dark, meaning it does not reflect, absorb or emit light. Neither does it seem to interact with any form of radiation, which suggests it is not made of baryonic matter – the stuff everything we see and touch is made of.
But scientists know dark matter is out there because of the effect it has on large cosmic bodies.
Galaxies, for instance, are rotating at speeds that under normal circumstances would rip them apart.
But something is binding them together, giving them more mass and gravity than we can directly observe.
As such, dark matter has been dubbed a cosmic glue of sorts and is responsible for holding galaxies together.
One such galaxy is the beautiful spiral galaxy NGC 5585 in the constellation Ursa Major.
But NGC 5585 appears to hold much more dark matter than other, similarly-sized galaxies.
The galaxy was snapped by the Hubble Space Telescope, which is a joint mission between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
ESA said: “The many stars and clouds of dust and gas that make up NGC 5585, shown here in this Hubble image, contribute only a small fraction of the total mass of the galaxy.
It contains a far higher proportion of dark matter
European Space Agency (ESA)
“As in many galaxies, this discrepancy can be explained by the abundant yet seemingly invisible presence of dark matter, a mysterious material that astronomers can’t directly observe.”
In other words, the galaxy appears to be much heavier than the sum total of the stars and dust and gas visible to our telescopes.
ESA continued: “The stellar disk of the galaxy extends over 35,000 light-years across.
“When compared to with galaxies of a similar shape and size, NGC 5585 stands out by having a notably different composition.
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“Contributing to the total mass of the galaxy, it contains a far higher proportion of dark matter.”
If you look closely at the Hubble image, you will see bright blue spots surrounding the galaxy’s bright, central core.
These are hot pockets of star formation – younger stars can be recognised by their blue hue.
Astronomers and physicists have proposed many theories over the years about what dark matter could be.
One out there theory suggests it is gravity leaking into our Universe from another dimension.
Particle physicists have also proposed dark matter could be some form of fundamental particle that is yet to be discovered.
NASA said: “Dark matter may not be made up of the matter we are familiar with at all.
“The matter that makes up dark matter could different.
“It may be filled with particles predicted by theory but that scientists have yet to observe.”
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