Astronomers looking at the ancient light seen by the Webb Space Telescope found three prickles they thought could be “dark stars,” theoretical objects powered by dark matter.
Dark matter makes up about 27% of the universe; Its mystery partner, dark energy, makes up about 68%. You can do the math: We know startlingly little about what the universe is made of and how it behaves. Webb’s recent targets appear in that region of cosmic uncertainty. The team was researched published Last week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The three targets are JADES-GS-z13-0, JADES-GS-z12-0, and JADES-GS-z11-0 and were identified as galaxies by Webb in December 2022. The targets were imaged as part of JWST Advanced Deep Extragalactic Survey (JADES)which takes images of the deep field of space, looking at very ancient light to help scientists understand the evolution of cosmic structures such as galaxies.
The three objects date back to a time when the universe was between 320 and 400 million years old, which makes them very young (in a cosmological sense). And while they could be galaxies containing millions of stars, the latest research team hypothesizes that they are not made by dark stars never seen before, which could be millions of times the mass of our sun and could be powered by collisions of dark matter particles. rather than nuclear fusion.
Dark matter isn’t literally dark, at least not necessarily. It is called dark matter because it is nearly impossible for humans to detect. we You see dark matter in its gravitational effects; halos of dark matter gloomy galaxies togetherAnd astronomers see ancient light most clearly when dark matter bends and focuses photons through its gravitational field.
While scientists don’t know what dark matter is made of, they do have some ideas. As Gizmodo reported earlier this year:
There are a couple Leading candidates for dark matter (And it’s not a zero-sum game; many dark matter candidates could be contributing to the universe.) Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) are theoretical objects that have mass and behave like particles but hardly interact with ordinary matter — hence our inability to recognize them.
The other major candidate is the axion, a A theoretical particle (a boson, to be exact) called a laundry detergent. The axis would be much smaller than a WIMP and it has been hypothesized that it behaves more like a wave than a particle, like photons of light.
In April, a group of scientists studied Einstein’s rings (distant light reflected by the force of gravity, forming a ring of light in space). found evidence of axial dark matter It produces brightness anomalies in distant quasars.
But because the dark matter candidates are not in conflict, WIMPs could very well still exist, and the latest research team suspects that WIMPs are at the heart of theoretical dark stars. The idea is that WIMPs in the dark cores of stars collide, annihilating each other and releasing heat energy. This heat is released into hydrogen gas, causing objects to shine brightly.
“The discovery of a new type of star is interesting in itself, but it’s the discovery of dark matter that’s working on this — that would be huge,” said Katherine Freese, a University of Texas at Austin astrophysicist and co-author of the study. university launch. “If some of these early galaxy-like objects are in fact dark stars, the simulation of galaxy formation agrees better with the observations.”
Dark stars were first proposed in 2008But only now is the Webb Space Telescope providing clear views of some of the oldest light we can see. The theoretical stars would be cool and puffy and up to ten billion times the luminosity of the Sun, according to the research team.
Astrophysicists describe zanni structures in space from time to time, to provide mathematically described solutions to aspects of astrophysics that are completely meaningless under Standard Model of Cosmology. (The same can be said for various dark matter candidates, such as axions, that are set out to explain problems with the Standard Model of particle physics.)
Earlier this year, A.J A team of physicists described the topological soliton, which would look like a black hole due to its gravitational effects but would still emit light. Boson stars and gravastars are examples of other objects that have been mathematically proposed but never observed.
In the same way, known objects are potential sites for dark matter production. In 2021, a team of astrophysicists has proposed That axions can be produced in the cores of neutron stars, some of the densest objects in the universe. You can think of dark stars in the opposite direction: rather than their centers being factories for dark matter particles, they are places for their destruction.
The research team believes that dark stars can be misunderstood as large galaxies, and that stars may be seeding the supermassive black holes seen even in the early days of the universe – that is to say, the first few hundred million years of their existence.
Some of these supermassive black holes may also play a role in the gravitational wave background, which Astrophysicists saw the first signs last month. As supermassive black holes orbit each other on the scale of hundreds of millions of years, they cause nearly imperceptible ripples in space-time that bounce across the universe.
More observations with Webb will give astrophysicists a better look at those ancient sources of light; Whether it’s galaxies or stars powered by dark matter, we hope we won’t be in the dark much longer.
More: Astrophysicists discover Einstein rings that enhance the state of axion dark matter
“Explorer. Unapologetic entrepreneur. Alcohol fanatic. Certified writer. Wannabe tv evangelist. Twitter fanatic. Student. Web scholar. Travel buff.”