Popular Science

Why a galaxy with no dark matter could make it hard to prove there’s no dark matter

What’s the matter with dark matter?


The ultra-diffuse galaxy NGC1052-DF2 which appears to contain no dark matter.

Back in 2000, a galaxy appeared as a smudge on a photographic plate. It was huge, the size of the Milky Way, but also incredibly faint, and hard to observe. Someone gave it a catalogue number and filed it away into obscurity.

It was a member of a relatively new class called an ultra-diffuse galaxy. They're roughly the same size as our own, but with hundreds to thousands of times fewer stars, leaving them easily outshone by brighter objects in the sky. Years later, astronomers took a closer look using the Dragonfly array, a telescope made up of 48 telephoto lenses—perfect for viewing huge, faint objects like this.

Astronomer Pieter van Dokkum and colleagues wanted to in ) were odd. The galaxy appears to have no dark matter—a new, puzzling piece of evidence for astrophysicists to ponder.

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