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Dark matter is (probably) more complex than you think

Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
April 20, 2015
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Scientists typically believe that dark matter, for all of its mystery, behaves in a simple way: if one clump encounters another, the two interact solely through gravity. However, researchers using both Hubble and the Very Large Telescope have published findings which suggest that there's more involved. They've noticed dark matter (the blue lines in this picture) lagging behind a galaxy due to friction, hinting that there are factors beyond gravity at work. It's not certain whether the source of this friction is a familiar phenomenon or something entirely undiscovered, but it's definitely not the usual culprit.

It'll be a long while before there's a clearer answer here. The findings only touch on one galaxy, and there's currently an 0.1 percent chance that this is simply a measurement error. Researchers want higher accuracy before they confidently declare this to be accurate. If the data is on the mark, though, humanity will have a better sense of what dark matter really is, and how it affects the cosmos.

[Image credit: ESO/R. Massey]

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