Dark Matter Should Be Everywhere, but This Mysterious Galaxy Has None

Astronomers baffled by distant galaxy that doesn't have any dark matter

For a galaxy like NGC1052-DF2, you'd expect to see about one hundred times more dark matter than visible matter-but astronomers found it has nearly no dark matter. But upon further study, an worldwide team of astronomers was surprised to discover that it had no dark matter, something that has been seen as crucial in the formation of galaxies.

"We thought that every galaxy had dark matter and that dark matter is how a galaxy begins", said Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, lead researcher of the Hubble observations.

"If there is no dark matter in this galaxy, it will be minimal".

"We really thought that this is the essence of what a galaxy is, that galaxies are built from, initially, a bunch of dark matter and that all the stars and all the planets and everything else is just a little frost on top", van Dokkum added.

The absence of dark matter from a small patch of sky might appear to be a non-problem, given that astronomers have never directly observed dark matter anywhere.

The scientists spotted NGC1052-DF2 using the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a telescope in New Mexico.

Astronomers first discovered the galaxy in 2000 as a smudge on old photographic plates. Now researchers are pondering possible explanations for this missing dark matter in NGC 1052-DF2. If dark matter only served to explain the effect of the gravity from regular matter, it should still be visible in NGC1052-DF2. Usllay galaxies have a larger mass than can be accounted for just by the ordinary matter inside them. That thinking led van Dokkum and his colleagues to build the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a telescope in New Mexico created for the express goal of scrutinizing ultra-diffuse galaxies.

By observing it with the Hubble telescope, Pieter van Dokkum likens it to "a very big blob through which we can see". That's when they realized that this galaxy was very, very different from other galaxies. "This result also suggests that there may be more than one way to form a galaxy". By measuring their motions, the astronomers could calculate the mass of material enclosed inside their orbits. That stellar sparseness means it does not look much like a typical spiral galaxy, but rather a loosely connected, ghostly blob of star-pocked gas and dust.

Roughly 65 million light-years away from Earth is a galaxy called NGC 1052-DF2 (DF2 for short). They followed the motion of 10 star clusters to work out how much mass the galaxy had.

"Instead we saw the opposite, leading to this remarkable conclusion that there's actually no room for dark matter at all in this thing", van Dokkum says.

However, this new study by astronomers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories of a galaxy known as NGC 1052-DF2 that appears to have very little, if no dark matter al all, now challenges this currently-accepted theory. In another, an vast galaxy that's relatively close to DF2 may have somehow influenced the smaller galaxy during its formation.

Unfortunately, dark matter research is facing a hurdle, as the Trump administration's NASA budget proposal for fiscal year 2019 places the funding of the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope in question. Yet in this unusual galaxy, the projected signatures of these exotic effects are not seen.

About a year ago, University of Waterloo researchers captured a composite image that strongly supports the existence of dark matter. "So finding a galaxy without it is unexpected".

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