Tech UPTechnologyHow much dark matter does it take to create...

How much dark matter does it take to create a galaxy?

materia-oscuraAn international team of astronomers, with the participation of scientists from the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Universidad de La Laguna, has determined for the first time theamount of dark matter that was needed in the origins of the Universe for the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way. According to their data, the figure amounts to aboutthree hundred billion times the mass of the Sun. This conclusion, collected in an article published in the latest issue of the journalNature, constitutes the first step tobetter understand the role dark matter plays, a form of matter never observed by a telescope. The team made the finding using data from the largest space telescope in operation, theHerschel Space Observatoryof the European Space Agency (ESA).

Galaxies like the Milky Way formed billions of years ago fromgas clouds that collapsed due to the force of gravity.The intensity of this process is key to the formation or not of the galaxy and, at this point, dark matter is a decisive factor: “If the formation of a galaxy with little dark matter begins, then the galaxy will not be created. Instead, if you have the right amount, a galaxy full of new stars will emerge, “says University of California researcher and study leader Asantha Cooray. That precise amount that completes the recipe is three hundred billion times the mass of the Sun. The latter, in turn, is more than a million times that of the Earth.

How does dark matter intervene in the formation of galaxies? As the authors explain, galaxies in the early universe are thought to have formed at points where they existed.dark matter halos. These halosthey would act as wells that accumulate and attract large amounts of gas and dust into their interior, the other ingredients needed to form galaxies. The density of gas and dust increases until it collapses as they fall into these dark matter halos. Thanks to this phenomenon, stars and eventually a galaxy emerge. Or more than one, as long as there is enough dark matter in the same halo. In fact, Herschel’s images have also revealed thatthere is a large grouping of galaxies, larger than previously known.

The finding of the team of astronomers also shows how abundant dark matter is in the Universe. Normal matter, that which is present in the human body, planets, stars and galaxies, has a presence five times less. However, telescopes have never been able to detect it and its existence can only be deduced from the influence of its gravity on matter that does emit light.

To tackle an investigation into unseen matter, the team worked with Herschel, the largest working space telescope, launched into space in May 2009. The 3.5-meter diameter device detects light in the far infrared range. , at wavelengths about a thousand times greater than those of visible light, the one seen by the human eye and studied by traditional telescopes. This ability has allowed him to study a great diversity of cosmic objects, from asteroids and planets in our solar system to very distant galaxies.

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