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Mysterious Dark Matter Might Actually Glow

The strange stuff makes up about 85 percent of the heft of the universe. It's invisible, but researchers know it's there because there is not enough regular matter -- stars and planets and gas and dust -- to hold galaxies and galaxy clusters together. Some other unseen material, dubbed dark matter, must be gluing things together.

So how to find that which you cannot see?

A new computer simulation of the evolution of a galaxy like our Milky Way suggests it might be possible to observe high-energy gamma-rays given off by dark matter.

"These calculations finally allow us to 'see' what the dark matter distribution should look like near the Sun where we might stand a chance of detecting it," said Simon White, director of the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics.

White is part of the international Virgo Consortium, a team of scientists including cosmologists at Durham University. Their findings are detailed in the Nov. 6 issue of the journal Nature.

Past studies have indicated that dark matter was crucial in the formation of galaxies, and that the mystery material still hangs around in halos that surround galaxies. The new simulation examined how these dark matter halos might evolve and behave.

The scientists figure that NASA's Fermi Telescope should search in this part of the galaxy for a signature glow of dark matter.

"The search for dark matter has dominated cosmology for many decades," said Carlos Frenk, director of the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University. "It may soon come to an end."

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Space.com Staff
Space.com Staff

Space.com is the premier source of space exploration, innovation and astronomy news, chronicling (and celebrating) humanity's ongoing expansion across the final frontier. Originally founded in 1999, Space.com is, and always has been, the passion of writers and editors who are space fans and also trained journalists. Our current news team consists of Editor-in-Chief Tariq Malik; Editor Hanneke Weitering, Senior Space Writer Mike Wall; Senior Writer Meghan Bartels; Senior Writer Chelsea Gohd, Senior Writer Tereza Pultarova and Staff Writer Alexander Cox, focusing on e-commerce. Senior Producer Steve Spaleta oversees our space videos, with Diana Whitcroft as our Social Media Editor.