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First Glimpse: The Greater Universe



I have already written a blog entry about black holes. Now here is one about something else equally as fascinating and awesome and unexplained: dark matter and dark energy.

They say the universe is forever expanding and moving and sliding and shifting. According to a timeline representing the Big Bang theory provided by National Geographic, the initial bang happened 13.8 billion years ago, and within milliseconds, it inflated enormously, and within seconds, dark matter emerges and begins to pull normal matter around. Stars began to pop up about 100 million years after the big bang. About 1 billion years after the eruption, the rapid expansion slows due to the unimaginable gravitational pull of the dark matter. 3.8 billion years later, however, dark energies appears, and the expansion speeds up again. At present, the universe is hurtling outward ceaselessly. So when they say the universe is now expanding, it is because of dark energy. In short, dark matter pulls things together, and dark energy pushes things apart. And when they say everything within the universe is constantly moving around - including our negligible little home the Milky Way - we automatically imagine a mass of stars and planets drifting aimlessly through a black void. And if we could look at this from the outside, yeah, that is what it would look like. But that is not what is happening.

Dark matter is everywhere, though it is completely invisible. The only way we could possibly see dark matter is by using a massive and complex machine with liquid argon in the center, and hoping that when dark matter hits the argon, it will trigger tiny flashes of light. Note: hoping, and even if it works, this will be detecting, not seeing. Despite this disability, epic nerd geniuses (so, scientists) have constructed a simulation of what the dark matter may look like in a massive area that includes a small, dim yellow dot labeled Milky Way. The image depicts the majority of 'space' as a grey webbing and filmy substance, which is dark matter: the scaffolding of the universe. There are black lines criss-crossing it. Those are 'free space' through which galaxies can flow. Dark matter is so powerful that it directs the flow of the universe.

Dark matter reveals itself in another way, as well. It bends lights. For example, often when we see a distant galaxy, we are actually seeing distorted images that appear to be multiple galaxies. This is because the light 'carrying' the image of a galaxy gets bent around a mass of dark matter and becomes deformed when it reaches what we can see from Earth. When we can detect the perverted images of galaxies and realize that they are in fact distorted, it indicates the presence of dark matter.

On as personal a note as the universe can possibly get, a high concentration of gamma rays have been detected near the core of our very own Milky Way. This could indicate highly active dark matter particles smashing into and annihilating one another. This is the first time we have seen dark matter annihilation, most likely because the dark matter detectors that we have created all look for interaction between dark matter and normal matter, rather than interactions dark matter and dark matter.

I hope those of you that actually read this find it just as fascinating as I do.

Until next time.

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(oh and to explain: the attached image is of the dark matter [grey] as the 'scaffolding,' with the yellow indicating galaxies and the black indicating the paths through which the galaxies can move)

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