In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that is inferred to exist from gravitational effects on visible matter and background radiation, but is undetectable by emitted or scattered electromagnetic radiation. Its existence was hypothesized to account for discrepancies between measurements of the mass of galaxies, clusters of galaxies and the entire universe made through dynamical and general relativistic means, and measurements based on the mass of the visible "luminous" matter these objects contain: stars and the gas and dust of the interstellar and intergalactic medium.
According to observations of structures larger than galaxies, as well as Big Bang cosmology interpreted under the Friedmann equations and the FLRW metric, dark matter accounts for 23% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe. In comparison, ordinary matter accounts for only 4.6% of the mass-energy density of the observable universe, with the remainder being attributable to dark energy. From these figures, dark matter constitutes 80% of the matter in the universe, while ordinary matter makes up only 20%.
Dark matter was postulated by Fritz Zwicky in 1934 to account for evidence of "missing mass" in the orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters. Subsequently, other observations have indicated the presence of dark matter in the universe; these observations include the rotational speeds of galaxies, gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters such as the Bullet Cluster, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies.
Dark matter plays a central role in state-of-the-art modeling of structure formation and galaxy evolution, and has measurable effects on the anisotropies observed in the cosmic microwave background. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than that which interacts with electromagnetic radiation. The largest part of dark matter, which does not interact with electromagnetic radiation, is not only "dark" but also, by definition, utterly transparent.
As important as dark matter is believed to be in the cosmos, direct evidence of its existence and a concrete understanding of its nature have remained elusive. Though the theory of dark matter remains the most widely accepted theory to explain the anomalies in observed galactic rotation, some alternative theoretical approaches have been developed which broadly fall into the categories of modified gravitational laws, and quantum gravitational laws.
Full article ▸