Dark matter is already one of the oddest and biggest mysteries in the universe. However, a new study out of Johns Hopkins University is putting an even bigger cloud over it. The study outlines a new theory that dark matter may have actually predated the Big Bang and offers methods to identify it with astronomical observations.
“The study revealed a new connection between particle physics and astronomy. If dark matter consists of new particles that were born before the Big Bang, they affect the way galaxies are distributed in the sky in a unique way,” says Tommi Tenkanen, a postdoctoral fellow in Physics and Astronomy at Johns Hopkins and the study’s author. “This connection may be used to reveal their identity and make conclusions about the times before the Big Bang too,”
Previously, dark matter was thought to have arisen from the Big Bang like regular matter and that dark matter must be just leftovers. However, the paper — published in Physical Review Letters — says maybe not so much.
While not much is known about dark matter’s origins, astronomers have shown that it plays a crucial role in the formation of galaxies and galaxy clusters. Though not directly observable, scientists know dark matter exists by its gravitation effects on how visible matter behaves and is distributed in space.
The study shows that dark matter — which is believed to make up 80 percent of the matter in the universe — might have been produced prior the Big Bang during a point in time known as the cosmic inflation when space was expanding very rapidly. The rapid expansion is believed to lead to copious production of certain types of particles called scalars. But so far, only one scalar particle has ever been found, the infamous Higgs boson.
While the idea that dark matter existed before the Big Bang is not new, other theorists have not been able to come up with calculations that support the idea.
The new study shows that researchers have always overlooked the simplest possible mathematical scenario for dark matter’s origins. The new report offers up a way to test the origin of dark matter by observing the signatures it leaves on the allocation of matter in the universe.
“While this type of dark matter is too elusive to be found in particle experiments, it can reveal its presence in astronomical observations,” said Tenkanen. “We will soon learn more about the origin of dark matter when the Euclid satellite is launched in 2022. It’s going to be very exciting to see what it will reveal about dark matter and if its findings can be used to peak into the times before the Big Bang.”
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