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Dark Matter

Dark Matter in Grade 12 Physics

Dark Matter

dark matter

Dark matter is a form of matter thought to account for approximately 85% of the matter in the universe and about a quarter of its total energy density. Its presence is implied in a variety of astrophysical observations, including gravitational effects that cannot be explained by accepted theories of gravity unless more matter is present than can be seen. For this reason, most experts think that matter is abundant in the universe and that it has had a strong influence on its structure and evolution. Dark matter is called dark because it does not appear to interact with observable electromagnetic radiation, such as light, and so it is undetectable by existing astronomical instruments.

The primary evidence for dark matter comes from calculations showing that many galaxies would fly apart, or that they would not have formed or would not move as they do if they did not contain a large amount of unseen matter. Other lines of evidence include observations in gravitational lensing and in the cosmic microwave background, along with astronomical observations of the observable universe’s current structure, the formation and evolution of galaxies, mass location during galactic collisions, and the motion of galaxies within galaxy clusters. In the standard Lambda-CDM model of cosmology, the total mass-energy of the universe contains 5% ordinary matter and energy, 27% dark matter, and 68% of an unknown form of energy known as energy. Thus, dark matter constitutes 85% of total mass, while dark energy plus matter constitutes 95% of total mass-energy content.

Because dark matter has not yet been observed directly, if it exists, it must barely interact with ordinary baryonic matter and radiation, except through gravity. Most matter is thought to be non-baryonic in nature; it may be composed of some as-yet-undiscovered subatomic particles. The primary candidate for dark matter is some new kind of elementary particle that has not yet been discovered, in particular, weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMPs). Many experiments to directly detect and study dark matter particles are being actively undertaken, but none have yet succeeded. Dark matter is classified as “cold”, “warm”, or “hot” according to its velocity (more precisely, its free streaming length). Current models favor a cold matter scenario, in which structures emerge by the gradual accumulation of particles.

Although the existence of matter is generally accepted by the scientific community, some astrophysicists, intrigued by certain observations which do not fit its theory, argue for various modifications of the standard laws of general relativity, such as modified Newtonian dynamics, tensor–vector–scalar gravity, or entropic gravity. These models attempt to account for all observations without invoking supplemental non-baryonic matter.

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