dark matter

dark energy

Astronomers who study the expansion of the universe are interested in knowing the rate of that expansion. Is the rate fast enough to overcome the attractive pull of gravity? If yes, then the universe will expand forever, although the expansion will slow down over time. If no, then the universe would someday start to contract, and eventually get squeezed together in a big crunch, the opposite of the Big Bang. Recently, astronomers have made a discovery that answers that question: the rate at which the universe is expanding is actually increasing. In other words, the universe is expanding faster now than ever before, and in the future it will expand even faster. So now astronomers think that the universe will keep expanding forever. But it also proposes a perplexing new question: what is causing the expansion of the universe to accelerate? One possible hypothesis involves a new, hypothetical form of energy called dark energy (Figure 1.2). Some scientists think that dark energy makes up as much as 71% of the total energy content of the universe. Today matter makes up a small percentage of the universe, but at the start of the universe it made up much more. Where did dark energy, if it even exists, come from? Other scientists have other hypotheses about why the universe is continuing to expand; the causes of the universes expansion is another unanswered question that scientists are researching. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:


kqed dark energy

Meet one of the three winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, Lawrence Berkeley Lab astrophysicist Saul Perlmutter. He explains how dark energy, which makes up 70 percent of the universe, is causing our universe to expand. Click image to the left or use the URL below. URL:

dark matter

The things we observe in space are objects that emit some type of electromagnetic radiation. However, scientists think that matter that emits light makes up only a small part of the matter in the universe. The rest of the matter, about 80%, is dark matter. Dark matter emits no electromagnetic radiation, so we cant observe it directly. However, astronomers know that dark matter exists because its gravity affects the motion of objects around it. When astronomers measure how spiral galaxies rotate, they find that the outside edges of a galaxy rotate at the same speed as parts closer to the center. This can only be explained if there is a lot more matter in the galaxy than they can see. Gravitational lensing occurs when light is bent from a very distant bright source around a super-massive object (Figure 1.1). To explain strong gravitational lensing, more matter than is observed must be present. With so little to go on, astronomers dont really know much about the nature of dark matter. One possibility is that it could just be ordinary matter that does not emit radiation in objects such as black holes, neutron stars, and brown dwarfs objects larger than Jupiter but smaller than the smallest stars. But astronomers cannot find enough of these types of objects, which they have named MACHOs (massive astrophyiscal compact halo object), to account for all the dark matter, so they are thought to be only a small part of the total. Another possibility is that the dark matter is very different from the ordinary matter we see. Some appear to be particles that have gravity, but dont otherwise appear to interact with other particles. Scientists call these theoretical particles WIMPs, which stands for Weakly Interactive Massive Particles. Most scientists who study dark matter think that the dark matter in the universe is a combination of MACHOs and some type of exotic matter, such as WIMPs. Researching dark matter is an active area of scientific research, and astronomers knowledge about dark matter is changing rapidly.


instructional diagrams

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when light from a very distant bright source is bent there is

a) a super-massive object.

b) dark matter.

c) gravitational lensing.

-->  d) all of the above.

scientists hypothesize the existence of dark matter because

-->  a) the outer and inner parts of a galaxy rotate at the same speed.

b) the outer portion of a galaxy rotates faster than the inner portion.

c) the inner portion of a galaxy rotates faster than the outer portion.

d) none of the above.

scientists know everything about how and when the universe formed.

a) true

-->  b) false

this much of the universe is made up of dark matter.

a) 20%

b) 40%

c) 60%

-->  d) 80%

the reason for gravitational lensing is the tremendous gravitational pull from matter we cant see.

-->  a) true

b) false

what does dark energy do?

a) it causes the expansion of the universe to slow down.

-->  b) it causes the universe to expand at an increasing rate.

c) it causes the universe to heat up.

d) it causes stars and galaxies to form.

the rate that the universe is expanding is increasing.

-->  a) true

b) false

the amount of dark matter and dark energy in the universe are increasing.

a) true

-->  b) false

dark matter is

a) ordinary matter that does not emit radiation.

b) particles that have gravity but dont otherwise interact with other particles.

c) massive objects called machos.

-->  d) not entirely understood.

astronomers ideas about the big bang, dark energy and dark matter seem far- fetched,

a) and they are far-fetched!

b) and they keep astronomers entertained.

-->  c) but they are all supported by scientific evidence.

d) and they are all made up.

diagram questions

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