Reasons to Believe

More on Dark Matter

Dark matter (matter that cannot be seen in any normal sense of the word) has been the subject of considerable controversy in the astronomical community ever since cosmologists, based on analysis of observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) radiation, concluded it makes up about 22 percent of the content of the universe.

Other scientists question these results and argue against the whole idea of matter you cannot see. Instead they propose a form of modified gravity (MOG) to explain the lensing phenomenon. This approach involves modifying either Newton’s or Einstein’s equations of gravity with certain added terms to explain the observations. However, they have had limited success.

A new discovery may help settle the controversy. In a paper soon to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, a team of astronomers led by Catherine Heymans and Meghan Gray have been the first to clearly detect irregular clumps of dark matter in a supercluster of galaxies.

Combining results from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter Telescope in La Silla, Chile, the team viewed a region of the sky about the size of the full moon that held the 16 million light-years-wide supercluster Abell 901/902 some 2.6 billion light-years from Earth. Using the gravitational lensing technique they were able to obtain the most-detailed correlation between the dark matter and the visible matter to date. Such results provide indirect but powerful evidence for dark matter in the presence of visible matter that the MOG supporters will find difficult to explain with their model.

Why does this matter to the apologists at Reasons To Believe? Dark matter is a key component of the big bang model of the universe that points to its beginning almost 14 billion years ago. Together with expansion and cooling, this beginning is a biblical description of the cosmos that correlates with scientific discoveries, and gives us powerful evidence for the agreement between faith and science.

Subjects: Particle Physics

Dr. David Rogstad

Dr. Dave Rogstad received his PhD in physics from Caltech and worked over 30 years for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Though now retired, Dave continues to serve as an RTB board member and participates regularly in several RTB podcasts.