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What Is Dark Matter: Newly Discovered Faint Satellite Galaxy Drops Clues To The Unknown

First Posted: Nov 24, 2016 04:10 AM EST
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Upon the discovery of the newest ultra-faint satellite galaxy, Virgo 1, scientists have become more eager to find further faint galaxies that could possibly comprise the mysterious case of dark matter.

The dark matter is a vast collection of unknown objects that contain almost one third of mass in the universe. Its inability to reflect and radiate visible light, despite its massive gravitational effects, makes dark matter a remaining mystery among astrophysicists.

"Our theories and simulations of how the Universe evolves tell us that the Milky Way should have many of these small, faint satellite galaxies," stated NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory astrophysicist Jason Rhodes as reported by Space.com. "However, they have been notoriously difficult to detect, prompting some people to say that they may not exist. This is called the 'missing satellite problem.'"

Virgo 1, which was named after its aligning constellation, was discovered with the use of the 8.2-meter Subaru Telescope and Hyper Suprime-Cam (HSC) situated on Mauna Kea, Hawaii. Discovered by scientists at the National Astronomical Observatory in Japan (NAOJ) as a part of its Subaru Strategic Survey, the newfound satellite galaxy was said to be the "faintest" that they have found.

The combination of the large aperture telescope and large field-of-view camera gives scientists hope in discovering more and fainter star clusters away from the Milky Way. These instruments and their upcoming generations could expand the ongoing research in creating more accurate computer models of the universe.

"As their survey gets bigger, more of these formerly missing satellites should be found. Likewise, with a new generation of instruments and telescopes in the 2020s, we will be able to push the sensitivity limits even further and find smaller and fainter 'missing satellites,'" Rhodes added.

According to NASA, the universe is composed of 68 percent dark energy, 5 percent normal matter and 27 percent dark matter. The composition of dark matter may still be uncertain. But previous observations have described what it is not -- its darkness could mean it may not be a form of stars and planets, it is also not a form of dark clouds, it is not antimatter, and it is not made up of huge black holes.

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