Probes Of Dark Matter On Galaxy Scales 2013
April 3, 2013

Dark Matter Conference Coming This Summer

Lee Rannals for — Your Universe Online

Scientists are coming together this summer to try and collaborate on solving the mystery of dark matter.

Probes of Dark Matter on Galaxy Scales 2013, will be held July 14—19 in Monterey, California. Scientists at the conference will be meeting to discuss their techniques for solving the secrets of dark matter in the universe.

“The idea is to bring together people working on different probes of dark matter from dynamics, which is my area, to gravitational lensing, to indirect probes of dark matter like gamma ray radiation, and to get everyone together,” said Rochester Institute of Technology professor Sukanya Chakrabarti.

Chakrabarti, who helped organize the event, is a computational astrophysicist who developed the "tidal analysis" method for probing dark matter while on a post-doctoral fellowship at UC Berkley in 2009. Her method started asking questions like, "If the structures that you see in the gas disk of our galaxy are due to a satellite of our galaxy, how massive does the satellite have to be and where does it have to be?”

She then analyzed disturbances in a dwarf galaxy in the Whirlpool Galaxy, or what is also known as Galaxy M51. This galaxy has an optically visible dwarf satellite, which contains only a fraction of stars found in a larger spiral galaxy. Her method was able to successfully track the gravitational imprints of the satellite and allowed her to infer its mass and relative position.

“Tidal analysis gives us a way of hunting for dark-matter dominated dwarf galaxies,” Chakrabarti says. “And the reason this is useful is that most of them are very dim. It´s hard to see them if you are just looking for the optical light they emit. It´s sort of like looking for a car with dim headlights in a fog. If we knew approximately where to look, that would give observers an advantage.”

Chakrabarti says they are trying to determine whether scientists can predict satellite galaxies by looking for their gravitational footprints on the outer gas disks of galaxies. She is applying her method to the outer edges of the Milky Way, where a few dozen dwarf galaxies have been known to exist. Her work analyzes the structures in the outskirts of the hydrogen gas disk to uncover new dwarf galaxies.

To learn more about dark matter and what the future holds in future research, redOrbit interviewed Dr. Matt Walker, a research scientist with the Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics at Harvard University. The podcast discusses the future of research into the search for dark matter and what the implications of finding definitive proof could be for scientists.