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Dark Matter

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					                                       Dark Matter

There is perhaps no current problem of greater importance to astrophysics and cosmology than that of
"dark matter". The controversy, as the name implies, is centered on the notion that there may exist an
enormous amount of matter in the Universe that cannot be detected from the light that it emits. The
evidence of dark matter is from the motions of astronomical objects, specifically stellar, galactic, and
galaxy cluster/supercluster observations.

The basic argument is that if we measure velocities in some region, then there has to be enough mass
there for gravity to stop all the objects from flying apart. When such velocity measurements are done on
large scales, it turns out that the amount of inferred mass is much more than can be explained by the
luminous mass. Hence we infer that there is non-luminous matter in the Universe, i.e. there is dark
matter.

Dark matter has important consequences for the evolution of the Universe. According to standard
cosmological theory, the Universe must conform to one of three possible types: open, flat, or closed. A
parameter known as the "mass density" - that is, how much matter per unit volume is contained in the
Universe - determines which of the three possibilities applies to the Universe. In the case of an open
Universe, the mass density (denoted by the Greek letter Omega) is less than unity, and the Universe is
predicted to expand forever. If the Universe is closed, Omega is greater than unity, and the Universe will
eventually stop its expansion and recollapse back upon itself. For the case where Omega is exactly equal
to one, the Universe is delicately balanced between the two states, and is said to be "flat".

Dark matter candidates are usually split into two broad categories, with the second category being
further sub-divided: baryonic and bon-baryonic. Then, under non-baryonic, hot dark matter (HDM) and
cold dark matter (CDM) are its types. Depending on their respective masses and speeds, CDM
candidates have relatively large mass and travel at slow speeds (hence "cold"), while HDM candidates
include minute-mass, rapidly moving (hence "hot") particles.

As leading possible candidates for baryonic dark matter, there are black holes (large and small), brown
dwarfs (stars too cold and faint to radiate), sun-size MACHOs, cold gas, dark galaxies and dark clusters,
to name only a few.

				
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posted:8/19/2012
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