Friday, January 25, 2013

NASA joins probe to solve dark matter puzzle

NASA has teamed up with the European Space Agency to probe one of the most fundamental questions in modern cosmology - the existence of dark matter.

ESA's Euclid mission, a space telescope designed to investigate the cosmological mysteries of dark matter and dark energy will launch in 2020, NASA said.

Euclid will spend six years mapping the locations and measuring the shapes of as many as 2 billion galaxies spread over more than one-third of the sky.

It will study the evolution of our universe, and the dark matter and dark energy that influence its evolution in ways that still are poorly understood.

The telescope will launch to an orbit around the Sun-Earth Lagrange point L2 - the location where the gravitational pull of two large masses, the Sun and Earth in this case, precisely equals the force required for a small object, such as the Euclid spacecraft, to maintain a relatively stationary position behind Earth as seen from the Sun.

"NASA is very proud to contribute to ESA's mission to understand one of the greatest science mysteries of our time," said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator for NASA's Science Mission Directorate, in a statement.

NASA and ESA recently signed an agreement outlining NASA's role in the project. The US space agency will contribute 16 state-of-the-art infrared detectors and four spare detectors for one of two science instruments planned for Euclid.

"ESA's Euclid mission is designed to probe one of the most fundamental questions in modern cosmology, and we welcome NASA's contribution to this important endeavour, the most recent in a long history of cooperation in space science between our two agencies," said Alvaro Gimenez, ESA's Director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

In addition, NASA has nominated three US science teams totalling 40 new members for the Euclid Consortium. This is in addition to 14 US scientists already supporting the mission.

Euclid will map the dark matter in the universe. Matter as we know it - the atoms that make up the human body, for example - is a fraction of the total matter in the universe.

The rest, about 85 per cent, is dark matter consisting of particles of an unknown type. Dark matter first was postulated in 1932, but still has not been detected directly.

It is called dark matter because it does not interact with light. Dark matter interacts with ordinary matter through gravity and binds galaxies together like an invisible glue.

While dark matter pulls matter together, dark energy pushes the universe apart at ever-increasing speeds. In terms of the total mass-energy content of the universe, dark energy dominates. Even less is known about dark energy than dark matter.

Euclid's observations will yield the best measurements yet of how the acceleration of the universe has changed over time, providing new clues about the evolution and fate of the cosmos, researchers said.


  1. "Dark matter" is a theoretical construct to explain why the observed facts in the sky don't work out properly with the theory of the Big Bang. In this, they are no different than the theory of epicycles, used to reconcile the observed motions of the planets with the theory of an Earth-centered universe back in the 1500's. Both the theory of an Earth-centered universe and the Big Bang are not science, but religion masquerading as science.

    "Eppur si muove" -- Galileo

    "Il cosmo non è in espansione" -- Me.

  2. "Nothing so advances science as the death of old scientists". Which means to say, that when the tenured professors have moved on, one may also question their pet theories without (ideally) the fear of losing that precious research grant.

    For an example of cosmology from the perspective of plasma physics, please see I double dog dare ya!

  3. Read a good science fiction book that promotes a theory of dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter is a sub-atomic particle that is weakly interactive with gravity. These particles are actually virtual particles that spontaneously create and then disappear all the time, but become dark matter when they fail to disappear. Gravity is caused by the spontaneous creation of virtual particles along the curvature of space as defined by the effects of mass. This explains why dark matter accumulates where there is a lot of gravity. This virtual particle phenomenon also explains dark energy since the universe is always creating virtual particles that give the universe a constant push. We exchange virtual particles between ourselves as well as between planets and stars with varying degrees of intensity. In fact this particle exchange also holds our molecules together. It was a good book called Aquari, but then it was just science fiction.