Skip to ContentGo to accessibility pageKeyboard shortcuts menu
OpenStax Logo
College Physics 2e

34.4 Dark Matter and Closure

College Physics 2e34.4 Dark Matter and Closure

Table of contents
  1. Preface
  2. 1 Introduction: The Nature of Science and Physics
    1. Introduction to Science and the Realm of Physics, Physical Quantities, and Units
    2. 1.1 Physics: An Introduction
    3. 1.2 Physical Quantities and Units
    4. 1.3 Accuracy, Precision, and Significant Figures
    5. 1.4 Approximation
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
  3. 2 Kinematics
    1. Introduction to One-Dimensional Kinematics
    2. 2.1 Displacement
    3. 2.2 Vectors, Scalars, and Coordinate Systems
    4. 2.3 Time, Velocity, and Speed
    5. 2.4 Acceleration
    6. 2.5 Motion Equations for Constant Acceleration in One Dimension
    7. 2.6 Problem-Solving Basics for One-Dimensional Kinematics
    8. 2.7 Falling Objects
    9. 2.8 Graphical Analysis of One-Dimensional Motion
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
  4. 3 Two-Dimensional Kinematics
    1. Introduction to Two-Dimensional Kinematics
    2. 3.1 Kinematics in Two Dimensions: An Introduction
    3. 3.2 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Graphical Methods
    4. 3.3 Vector Addition and Subtraction: Analytical Methods
    5. 3.4 Projectile Motion
    6. 3.5 Addition of Velocities
    7. Glossary
    8. Section Summary
    9. Conceptual Questions
    10. Problems & Exercises
  5. 4 Dynamics: Force and Newton's Laws of Motion
    1. Introduction to Dynamics: Newton’s Laws of Motion
    2. 4.1 Development of Force Concept
    3. 4.2 Newton’s First Law of Motion: Inertia
    4. 4.3 Newton’s Second Law of Motion: Concept of a System
    5. 4.4 Newton’s Third Law of Motion: Symmetry in Forces
    6. 4.5 Normal, Tension, and Other Examples of Forces
    7. 4.6 Problem-Solving Strategies
    8. 4.7 Further Applications of Newton’s Laws of Motion
    9. 4.8 Extended Topic: The Four Basic Forces—An Introduction
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
  6. 5 Further Applications of Newton's Laws: Friction, Drag, and Elasticity
    1. Introduction: Further Applications of Newton’s Laws
    2. 5.1 Friction
    3. 5.2 Drag Forces
    4. 5.3 Elasticity: Stress and Strain
    5. Glossary
    6. Section Summary
    7. Conceptual Questions
    8. Problems & Exercises
  7. 6 Uniform Circular Motion and Gravitation
    1. Introduction to Uniform Circular Motion and Gravitation
    2. 6.1 Rotation Angle and Angular Velocity
    3. 6.2 Centripetal Acceleration
    4. 6.3 Centripetal Force
    5. 6.4 Fictitious Forces and Non-inertial Frames: The Coriolis Force
    6. 6.5 Newton’s Universal Law of Gravitation
    7. 6.6 Satellites and Kepler’s Laws: An Argument for Simplicity
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  8. 7 Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
    1. Introduction to Work, Energy, and Energy Resources
    2. 7.1 Work: The Scientific Definition
    3. 7.2 Kinetic Energy and the Work-Energy Theorem
    4. 7.3 Gravitational Potential Energy
    5. 7.4 Conservative Forces and Potential Energy
    6. 7.5 Nonconservative Forces
    7. 7.6 Conservation of Energy
    8. 7.7 Power
    9. 7.8 Work, Energy, and Power in Humans
    10. 7.9 World Energy Use
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
  9. 8 Linear Momentum and Collisions
    1. Introduction to Linear Momentum and Collisions
    2. 8.1 Linear Momentum and Force
    3. 8.2 Impulse
    4. 8.3 Conservation of Momentum
    5. 8.4 Elastic Collisions in One Dimension
    6. 8.5 Inelastic Collisions in One Dimension
    7. 8.6 Collisions of Point Masses in Two Dimensions
    8. 8.7 Introduction to Rocket Propulsion
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  10. 9 Statics and Torque
    1. Introduction to Statics and Torque
    2. 9.1 The First Condition for Equilibrium
    3. 9.2 The Second Condition for Equilibrium
    4. 9.3 Stability
    5. 9.4 Applications of Statics, Including Problem-Solving Strategies
    6. 9.5 Simple Machines
    7. 9.6 Forces and Torques in Muscles and Joints
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  11. 10 Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
    1. Introduction to Rotational Motion and Angular Momentum
    2. 10.1 Angular Acceleration
    3. 10.2 Kinematics of Rotational Motion
    4. 10.3 Dynamics of Rotational Motion: Rotational Inertia
    5. 10.4 Rotational Kinetic Energy: Work and Energy Revisited
    6. 10.5 Angular Momentum and Its Conservation
    7. 10.6 Collisions of Extended Bodies in Two Dimensions
    8. 10.7 Gyroscopic Effects: Vector Aspects of Angular Momentum
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  12. 11 Fluid Statics
    1. Introduction to Fluid Statics
    2. 11.1 What Is a Fluid?
    3. 11.2 Density
    4. 11.3 Pressure
    5. 11.4 Variation of Pressure with Depth in a Fluid
    6. 11.5 Pascal’s Principle
    7. 11.6 Gauge Pressure, Absolute Pressure, and Pressure Measurement
    8. 11.7 Archimedes’ Principle
    9. 11.8 Cohesion and Adhesion in Liquids: Surface Tension and Capillary Action
    10. 11.9 Pressures in the Body
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
  13. 12 Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
    1. Introduction to Fluid Dynamics and Its Biological and Medical Applications
    2. 12.1 Flow Rate and Its Relation to Velocity
    3. 12.2 Bernoulli’s Equation
    4. 12.3 The Most General Applications of Bernoulli’s Equation
    5. 12.4 Viscosity and Laminar Flow; Poiseuille’s Law
    6. 12.5 The Onset of Turbulence
    7. 12.6 Motion of an Object in a Viscous Fluid
    8. 12.7 Molecular Transport Phenomena: Diffusion, Osmosis, and Related Processes
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  14. 13 Temperature, Kinetic Theory, and the Gas Laws
    1. Introduction to Temperature, Kinetic Theory, and the Gas Laws
    2. 13.1 Temperature
    3. 13.2 Thermal Expansion of Solids and Liquids
    4. 13.3 The Ideal Gas Law
    5. 13.4 Kinetic Theory: Atomic and Molecular Explanation of Pressure and Temperature
    6. 13.5 Phase Changes
    7. 13.6 Humidity, Evaporation, and Boiling
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  15. 14 Heat and Heat Transfer Methods
    1. Introduction to Heat and Heat Transfer Methods
    2. 14.1 Heat
    3. 14.2 Temperature Change and Heat Capacity
    4. 14.3 Phase Change and Latent Heat
    5. 14.4 Heat Transfer Methods
    6. 14.5 Conduction
    7. 14.6 Convection
    8. 14.7 Radiation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  16. 15 Thermodynamics
    1. Introduction to Thermodynamics
    2. 15.1 The First Law of Thermodynamics
    3. 15.2 The First Law of Thermodynamics and Some Simple Processes
    4. 15.3 Introduction to the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Heat Engines and Their Efficiency
    5. 15.4 Carnot’s Perfect Heat Engine: The Second Law of Thermodynamics Restated
    6. 15.5 Applications of Thermodynamics: Heat Pumps and Refrigerators
    7. 15.6 Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: Disorder and the Unavailability of Energy
    8. 15.7 Statistical Interpretation of Entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics: The Underlying Explanation
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  17. 16 Oscillatory Motion and Waves
    1. Introduction to Oscillatory Motion and Waves
    2. 16.1 Hooke’s Law: Stress and Strain Revisited
    3. 16.2 Period and Frequency in Oscillations
    4. 16.3 Simple Harmonic Motion: A Special Periodic Motion
    5. 16.4 The Simple Pendulum
    6. 16.5 Energy and the Simple Harmonic Oscillator
    7. 16.6 Uniform Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion
    8. 16.7 Damped Harmonic Motion
    9. 16.8 Forced Oscillations and Resonance
    10. 16.9 Waves
    11. 16.10 Superposition and Interference
    12. 16.11 Energy in Waves: Intensity
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
  18. 17 Physics of Hearing
    1. Introduction to the Physics of Hearing
    2. 17.1 Sound
    3. 17.2 Speed of Sound, Frequency, and Wavelength
    4. 17.3 Sound Intensity and Sound Level
    5. 17.4 Doppler Effect and Sonic Booms
    6. 17.5 Sound Interference and Resonance: Standing Waves in Air Columns
    7. 17.6 Hearing
    8. 17.7 Ultrasound
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  19. 18 Electric Charge and Electric Field
    1. Introduction to Electric Charge and Electric Field
    2. 18.1 Static Electricity and Charge: Conservation of Charge
    3. 18.2 Conductors and Insulators
    4. 18.3 Coulomb’s Law
    5. 18.4 Electric Field: Concept of a Field Revisited
    6. 18.5 Electric Field Lines: Multiple Charges
    7. 18.6 Electric Forces in Biology
    8. 18.7 Conductors and Electric Fields in Static Equilibrium
    9. 18.8 Applications of Electrostatics
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
  20. 19 Electric Potential and Electric Field
    1. Introduction to Electric Potential and Electric Energy
    2. 19.1 Electric Potential Energy: Potential Difference
    3. 19.2 Electric Potential in a Uniform Electric Field
    4. 19.3 Electrical Potential Due to a Point Charge
    5. 19.4 Equipotential Lines
    6. 19.5 Capacitors and Dielectrics
    7. 19.6 Capacitors in Series and Parallel
    8. 19.7 Energy Stored in Capacitors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  21. 20 Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law
    1. Introduction to Electric Current, Resistance, and Ohm's Law
    2. 20.1 Current
    3. 20.2 Ohm’s Law: Resistance and Simple Circuits
    4. 20.3 Resistance and Resistivity
    5. 20.4 Electric Power and Energy
    6. 20.5 Alternating Current versus Direct Current
    7. 20.6 Electric Hazards and the Human Body
    8. 20.7 Nerve Conduction–Electrocardiograms
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  22. 21 Circuits and DC Instruments
    1. Introduction to Circuits and DC Instruments
    2. 21.1 Resistors in Series and Parallel
    3. 21.2 Electromotive Force: Terminal Voltage
    4. 21.3 Kirchhoff’s Rules
    5. 21.4 DC Voltmeters and Ammeters
    6. 21.5 Null Measurements
    7. 21.6 DC Circuits Containing Resistors and Capacitors
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  23. 22 Magnetism
    1. Introduction to Magnetism
    2. 22.1 Magnets
    3. 22.2 Ferromagnets and Electromagnets
    4. 22.3 Magnetic Fields and Magnetic Field Lines
    5. 22.4 Magnetic Field Strength: Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field
    6. 22.5 Force on a Moving Charge in a Magnetic Field: Examples and Applications
    7. 22.6 The Hall Effect
    8. 22.7 Magnetic Force on a Current-Carrying Conductor
    9. 22.8 Torque on a Current Loop: Motors and Meters
    10. 22.9 Magnetic Fields Produced by Currents: Ampere’s Law
    11. 22.10 Magnetic Force between Two Parallel Conductors
    12. 22.11 More Applications of Magnetism
    13. Glossary
    14. Section Summary
    15. Conceptual Questions
    16. Problems & Exercises
  24. 23 Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits, and Electrical Technologies
    1. Introduction to Electromagnetic Induction, AC Circuits and Electrical Technologies
    2. 23.1 Induced Emf and Magnetic Flux
    3. 23.2 Faraday’s Law of Induction: Lenz’s Law
    4. 23.3 Motional Emf
    5. 23.4 Eddy Currents and Magnetic Damping
    6. 23.5 Electric Generators
    7. 23.6 Back Emf
    8. 23.7 Transformers
    9. 23.8 Electrical Safety: Systems and Devices
    10. 23.9 Inductance
    11. 23.10 RL Circuits
    12. 23.11 Reactance, Inductive and Capacitive
    13. 23.12 RLC Series AC Circuits
    14. Glossary
    15. Section Summary
    16. Conceptual Questions
    17. Problems & Exercises
  25. 24 Electromagnetic Waves
    1. Introduction to Electromagnetic Waves
    2. 24.1 Maxwell’s Equations: Electromagnetic Waves Predicted and Observed
    3. 24.2 Production of Electromagnetic Waves
    4. 24.3 The Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 24.4 Energy in Electromagnetic Waves
    6. Glossary
    7. Section Summary
    8. Conceptual Questions
    9. Problems & Exercises
  26. 25 Geometric Optics
    1. Introduction to Geometric Optics
    2. 25.1 The Ray Aspect of Light
    3. 25.2 The Law of Reflection
    4. 25.3 The Law of Refraction
    5. 25.4 Total Internal Reflection
    6. 25.5 Dispersion: The Rainbow and Prisms
    7. 25.6 Image Formation by Lenses
    8. 25.7 Image Formation by Mirrors
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  27. 26 Vision and Optical Instruments
    1. Introduction to Vision and Optical Instruments
    2. 26.1 Physics of the Eye
    3. 26.2 Vision Correction
    4. 26.3 Color and Color Vision
    5. 26.4 Microscopes
    6. 26.5 Telescopes
    7. 26.6 Aberrations
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  28. 27 Wave Optics
    1. Introduction to Wave Optics
    2. 27.1 The Wave Aspect of Light: Interference
    3. 27.2 Huygens's Principle: Diffraction
    4. 27.3 Young’s Double Slit Experiment
    5. 27.4 Multiple Slit Diffraction
    6. 27.5 Single Slit Diffraction
    7. 27.6 Limits of Resolution: The Rayleigh Criterion
    8. 27.7 Thin Film Interference
    9. 27.8 Polarization
    10. 27.9 *Extended Topic* Microscopy Enhanced by the Wave Characteristics of Light
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
  29. 28 Special Relativity
    1. Introduction to Special Relativity
    2. 28.1 Einstein’s Postulates
    3. 28.2 Simultaneity And Time Dilation
    4. 28.3 Length Contraction
    5. 28.4 Relativistic Addition of Velocities
    6. 28.5 Relativistic Momentum
    7. 28.6 Relativistic Energy
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  30. 29 Quantum Physics
    1. Introduction to Quantum Physics
    2. 29.1 Quantization of Energy
    3. 29.2 The Photoelectric Effect
    4. 29.3 Photon Energies and the Electromagnetic Spectrum
    5. 29.4 Photon Momentum
    6. 29.5 The Particle-Wave Duality
    7. 29.6 The Wave Nature of Matter
    8. 29.7 Probability: The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle
    9. 29.8 The Particle-Wave Duality Reviewed
    10. Glossary
    11. Section Summary
    12. Conceptual Questions
    13. Problems & Exercises
  31. 30 Atomic Physics
    1. Introduction to Atomic Physics
    2. 30.1 Discovery of the Atom
    3. 30.2 Discovery of the Parts of the Atom: Electrons and Nuclei
    4. 30.3 Bohr’s Theory of the Hydrogen Atom
    5. 30.4 X Rays: Atomic Origins and Applications
    6. 30.5 Applications of Atomic Excitations and De-Excitations
    7. 30.6 The Wave Nature of Matter Causes Quantization
    8. 30.7 Patterns in Spectra Reveal More Quantization
    9. 30.8 Quantum Numbers and Rules
    10. 30.9 The Pauli Exclusion Principle
    11. Glossary
    12. Section Summary
    13. Conceptual Questions
    14. Problems & Exercises
  32. 31 Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
    1. Introduction to Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
    2. 31.1 Nuclear Radioactivity
    3. 31.2 Radiation Detection and Detectors
    4. 31.3 Substructure of the Nucleus
    5. 31.4 Nuclear Decay and Conservation Laws
    6. 31.5 Half-Life and Activity
    7. 31.6 Binding Energy
    8. 31.7 Tunneling
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  33. 32 Medical Applications of Nuclear Physics
    1. Introduction to Applications of Nuclear Physics
    2. 32.1 Diagnostics and Medical Imaging
    3. 32.2 Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation
    4. 32.3 Therapeutic Uses of Ionizing Radiation
    5. 32.4 Food Irradiation
    6. 32.5 Fusion
    7. 32.6 Fission
    8. 32.7 Nuclear Weapons
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  34. 33 Particle Physics
    1. Introduction to Particle Physics
    2. 33.1 The Yukawa Particle and the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle Revisited
    3. 33.2 The Four Basic Forces
    4. 33.3 Accelerators Create Matter from Energy
    5. 33.4 Particles, Patterns, and Conservation Laws
    6. 33.5 Quarks: Is That All There Is?
    7. 33.6 GUTs: The Unification of Forces
    8. Glossary
    9. Section Summary
    10. Conceptual Questions
    11. Problems & Exercises
  35. 34 Frontiers of Physics
    1. Introduction to Frontiers of Physics
    2. 34.1 Cosmology and Particle Physics
    3. 34.2 General Relativity and Quantum Gravity
    4. 34.3 Superstrings
    5. 34.4 Dark Matter and Closure
    6. 34.5 Complexity and Chaos
    7. 34.6 High-temperature Superconductors
    8. 34.7 Some Questions We Know to Ask
    9. Glossary
    10. Section Summary
    11. Conceptual Questions
    12. Problems & Exercises
  36. A | Atomic Masses
  37. B | Selected Radioactive Isotopes
  38. C | Useful Information
  39. D | Glossary of Key Symbols and Notation
  40. Answer Key
    1. Chapter 1
    2. Chapter 2
    3. Chapter 3
    4. Chapter 4
    5. Chapter 5
    6. Chapter 6
    7. Chapter 7
    8. Chapter 8
    9. Chapter 9
    10. Chapter 10
    11. Chapter 11
    12. Chapter 12
    13. Chapter 13
    14. Chapter 14
    15. Chapter 15
    16. Chapter 16
    17. Chapter 17
    18. Chapter 18
    19. Chapter 19
    20. Chapter 20
    21. Chapter 21
    22. Chapter 22
    23. Chapter 23
    24. Chapter 24
    25. Chapter 25
    26. Chapter 26
    27. Chapter 27
    28. Chapter 28
    29. Chapter 29
    30. Chapter 30
    31. Chapter 31
    32. Chapter 32
    33. Chapter 33
    34. Chapter 34
  41. Index

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Discuss the existence of dark matter.
  • Explain neutrino oscillations and their consequences.

One of the most exciting problems in physics today is the fact that there is far more matter in the universe than we can see. The motion of stars in galaxies and the motion of galaxies in clusters imply that there is about 10 times as much mass as in the luminous objects we can see. The indirectly observed non-luminous matter is called dark matter. Why is dark matter a problem? For one thing, we do not know what it is. It may well be 90% of all matter in the universe, yet there is a possibility that it is of a completely unknown form—a stunning discovery if verified. Dark matter has implications for particle physics. It may be possible that neutrinos actually have small masses or that there are completely unknown types of particles. Dark matter also has implications for cosmology, since there may be enough dark matter to stop the expansion of the universe. That is another problem related to dark matter—we do not know how much there is. We keep finding evidence for more matter in the universe, and we have an idea of how much it would take to eventually stop the expansion of the universe, but whether there is enough is still unknown.


The first clues that there is more matter than meets the eye came from the Swiss-born American astronomer Fritz Zwicky in the 1930s; major work was also done by the American astronomer Vera Rubin. Zwicky measured the velocities of stars orbiting the galaxy, using the relativistic Doppler shift of their spectra (see Figure 34.18(a)). He found that velocity varied with distance from the center of the galaxy, as graphed in Figure 34.18(b). If the mass of the galaxy was concentrated in its center, as are its luminous stars, the velocities should decrease as the square root of the distance from the center. Instead, the velocity curve is almost flat, implying that there is a tremendous amount of matter in the galactic halo. Using instruments and methods that offered a greater degree of precision, Rubin investigated the movement of spiral galaxies and observed that their outermost reaches were rotating as quickly as their centers. She also calculated that the rotational velocity of galaxies should have been enough to cause them to fly apart, unless there was a significant discrepancy between their observable matter and their actual matter. This became known as the galaxy rotation problem, which can be "solved" by the presence of unobserved or dark matter. Although not immediately recognized for its significance, such measurements have now been made for many galaxies, with similar results. Further, studies of galactic clusters have also indicated that galaxies have a mass distribution greater than that obtained from their brightness (proportional to the number of stars), which also extends into large halos surrounding the luminous parts of galaxies. Observations of other EM wavelengths, such as radio waves and X rays, have similarly confirmed the existence of dark matter. Take, for example, X rays in the relatively dark space between galaxies, which indicates the presence of previously unobserved hot, ionized gas (see Figure 34.18(c)).

Theoretical Yearnings for Closure

Is the universe open or closed? That is, will the universe expand forever or will it stop, perhaps to contract? This, until recently, was a question of whether there is enough gravitation to stop the expansion of the universe. In the past few years, it has become a question of the combination of gravitation and what is called the cosmological constant. The cosmological constant was invented by Einstein to prohibit the expansion or contraction of the universe. At the time he developed general relativity, Einstein considered that an illogical possibility. The cosmological constant was discarded after Hubble discovered the expansion, but has been re-invoked in recent years.

Gravitational attraction between galaxies is slowing the expansion of the universe, but the amount of slowing down is not known directly. In fact, the cosmological constant can counteract gravity’s effect. As recent measurements indicate, the universe is expanding faster now than in the past—perhaps a “modern inflationary era” in which the dark energy is thought to be causing the expansion of the present-day universe to accelerate. If the expansion rate were affected by gravity alone, we should be able to see that the expansion rate between distant galaxies was once greater than it is now. However, measurements show it was less than now. We can, however, calculate the amount of slowing based on the average density of matter we observe directly. Here we have a definite answer—there is far less visible matter than needed to stop expansion. The critical density ρcρc is defined to be the density needed to just halt universal expansion in a universe with no cosmological constant. It is estimated to be about

ρc1026 kg/m3.ρc1026 kg/m3.

However, this estimate of ρcρc is only good to about a factor of two, due to uncertainties in the expansion rate of the universe. The critical density is equivalent to an average of only a few nucleons per cubic meter, remarkably small and indicative of how truly empty intergalactic space is. Luminous matter seems to account for roughly 0.5%0.5% to 2%2% of the critical density, far less than that needed for closure. Taking into account the amount of dark matter we detect indirectly and all other types of indirectly observed normal matter, there is only 10%10% to 40%40% of what is needed for closure. If we are able to refine the measurements of expansion rates now and in the past, we will have our answer regarding the curvature of space and we will determine a value for the cosmological constant to justify this observation. Finally, the most recent measurements of the CMBR have implications for the cosmological constant, so it is not simply a device concocted for a single purpose.

After the recent experimental discovery of the cosmological constant, most researchers feel that the universe should be just barely open. Since matter can be thought to curve the space around it, we call an open universe negatively curved. This means that you can in principle travel an unlimited distance in any direction. A universe that is closed is called positively curved. This means that if you travel far enough in any direction, you will return to your starting point, analogous to circumnavigating the Earth. In between these two is a flat (zero curvature) universe. The recent discovery of the cosmological constant has shown the universe is very close to flat, and will expand forever. Why do theorists feel the universe is flat? Flatness is a part of the inflationary scenario that helps explain the flatness of the microwave background. In fact, since general relativity implies that matter creates the space in which it exists, there is a special symmetry to a flat universe.

Figure a shows an eye looking toward a rotating spiral galaxy. Light coming from the galaxy arms that are rotating away from the observer is red shifted, and light coming from the galaxy arms that are rotating toward the observer is blue shifted. Figure b shows a graph of star rotation speed versus star radius. From zero radius, the curve increases steeply and peaks near two hundred and fifty kilometers per second at a radius of zero point five arbitrary units. The curve then decreases slightly and progresses to a radius of sixteen arbitrary units with ups and down between two hundred and two hundred and twenty five kilometers per second. Figure c shows an image of multiple galaxies and other objects against a black background. In the center of the image is a roughly circular purple haze, on the left and right of which are two slightly smaller and roughly circular blue haze regions.
Figure 34.18 Evidence for dark matter: (a) We can measure the velocities of stars relative to their galaxies by observing the Doppler shift in emitted light, usually using the hydrogen spectrum. These measurements indicate the rotation of a spiral galaxy. (b) A graph of velocity versus distance from the galactic center shows that the velocity does not decrease as it would if the matter were concentrated in luminous stars. The flatness of the curve implies a massive galactic halo of dark matter extending beyond the visible stars. (c) This is a computer-generated image of X rays from a galactic cluster. The X rays indicate the presence of otherwise unseen hot clouds of ionized gas in the regions of space previously considered more empty. (credit: NASA, ESA, CXC, M. Bradac (University of California, Santa Barbara), and S. Allen (Stanford University))

What Is the Dark Matter We See Indirectly?

There is no doubt that dark matter exists, but its form and the amount in existence are two facts that are still being studied vigorously. As always, we seek to explain new observations in terms of known principles. However, as more discoveries are made, it is becoming more and more difficult to explain dark matter as a known type of matter.

One of the possibilities for normal matter is being explored using the Hubble Space Telescope and employing the lensing effect of gravity on light (see Figure 34.19). Stars glow because of nuclear fusion in them, but planets are visible primarily by reflected light. Jupiter, for example, is too small to ignite fusion in its core and become a star, but we can see sunlight reflected from it, since we are relatively close. If Jupiter orbited another star, we would not be able to see it directly. The question is open as to how many planets or other bodies smaller than about 1/1000 the mass of the Sun are there. If such bodies pass between us and a star, they will not block the star’s light, being too small, but they will form a gravitational lens, as discussed in General Relativity and Quantum Gravity.

In a process called microlensing, light from the star is focused and the star appears to brighten in a characteristic manner. Searches for dark matter in this form are particularly interested in galactic halos because of the huge amount of mass that seems to be there. Such microlensing objects are thus called massive compact halo objects, or MACHOs. To date, a few MACHOs have been observed, but not predominantly in galactic halos, nor in the numbers needed to explain dark matter.

MACHOs are among the most conventional of unseen objects proposed to explain dark matter. Others being actively pursued are red dwarfs, which are small dim stars, but too few have been seen so far, even with the Hubble Telescope, to be of significance. Old remnants of stars called white dwarfs are also under consideration, since they contain about a solar mass, but are small as the Earth and may dim to the point that we ordinarily do not observe them. While white dwarfs are known, old dim ones are not. Yet another possibility is the existence of large numbers of smaller than stellar mass black holes left from the Big Bang—here evidence is entirely absent.

There is a very real possibility that dark matter is composed of the known neutrinos, which may have small, but finite, masses. As discussed earlier, neutrinos are thought to be massless, but we only have upper limits on their masses, rather than knowing they are exactly zero. So far, these upper limits come from difficult measurements of total energy emitted in the decays and reactions in which neutrinos are involved. There is an amusing possibility of proving that neutrinos have mass in a completely different way.

We have noted in Particles, Patterns, and Conservation Laws that there are three flavors of neutrinos (νeνe, vμvμ, and vτvτ) and that the weak interaction could change quark flavor. It should also change neutrino flavor—that is, any type of neutrino could change spontaneously into any other, a process called neutrino oscillations. However, this can occur only if neutrinos have a mass. Why? Crudely, because if neutrinos are massless, they must travel at the speed of light and time will not pass for them, so that they cannot change without an interaction. In 1999, results began to be published containing convincing evidence that neutrino oscillations do occur. Using the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan, the oscillations have been observed and are being verified and further explored at present at the same facility and others.

Neutrino oscillations may also explain the low number of observed solar neutrinos. Detectors for observing solar neutrinos are specifically designed to detect electron neutrinos νeνe produced in huge numbers by fusion in the Sun. A large fraction of electron neutrinos νeνe may be changing flavor to muon neutrinos vμvμ on their way out of the Sun, possibly enhanced by specific interactions, reducing the flux of electron neutrinos to observed levels. There is also a discrepancy in observations of neutrinos produced in cosmic ray showers. While these showers of radiation produced by extremely energetic cosmic rays should contain twice as many vμvμ s as νeνe s, their numbers are nearly equal. This may be explained by neutrino oscillations from muon flavor to electron flavor. Massive neutrinos are a particularly appealing possibility for explaining dark matter, since their existence is consistent with a large body of known information and explains more than dark matter. The question is not settled at this writing.

The most radical proposal to explain dark matter is that it consists of previously unknown leptons (sometimes obtusely referred to as non-baryonic matter). These are called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, and would also be chargeless, thus interacting negligibly with normal matter, except through gravitation. One proposed group of WIMPs would have masses several orders of magnitude greater than nucleons and are sometimes called neutralinos. Others are called axions and would have masses about 10101010 that of an electron mass. Both neutralinos and axions would be gravitationally attached to galaxies, but because they are chargeless and only feel the weak force, they would be in a halo rather than interact and coalesce into spirals, and so on, like normal matter (see Figure 34.20).

The figure shows a satellite in orbit above the glowing atmosphere of the Earth. The satellite is tube shaped and has a cover that is open at one end. It has two solar panels and is covered in what looks like aluminum foil.
Figure 34.19 The Hubble Space Telescope is producing exciting data with its corrected optics and with the absence of atmospheric distortion. It has observed some MACHOs, disks of material around stars thought to precede planet formation, black hole candidates, and collisions of comets with Jupiter. (credit: NASA (crew of STS-125))
A close-up photograph of a slow-moving stream carrying leaves.
Figure 34.20 Dark matter may shepherd normal matter gravitationally in space, as this stream moves the leaves. Dark matter may be invisible and even move through the normal matter, as neutrinos penetrate us without small-scale effect. (credit: Shinichi Sugiyama)

Some particle theorists have built WIMPs into their unified force theories and into the inflationary scenario of the evolution of the universe so popular today. These particles would have been produced in just the correct numbers to make the universe flat, shortly after the Big Bang. The proposal is radical in the sense that it invokes entirely new forms of matter, in fact two entirely new forms, in order to explain dark matter and other phenomena. WIMPs have the extra burden of automatically being very difficult to observe directly. This is somewhat analogous to quark confinement, which guarantees that quarks are there, but they can never be seen directly. One of the primary goals of the LHC at CERN, however, is to produce and detect WIMPs. At any rate, before WIMPs are accepted as the best explanation, all other possibilities utilizing known phenomena will have to be shown inferior. Should that occur, we will be in the unanticipated position of admitting that, to date, all we know is only 10% of what exists. A far cry from the days when people firmly believed themselves to be not only the center of the universe, but also the reason for its existence.

Do you know how you learn best?
Kinetic by OpenStax offers access to innovative study tools designed to help you maximize your learning potential.

Want to cite, share, or modify this book? This book uses the Creative Commons Attribution License and you must attribute OpenStax.

Attribution information Citation information

© Jun 30, 2022 OpenStax. Textbook content produced by OpenStax is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License . The OpenStax name, OpenStax logo, OpenStax book covers, OpenStax CNX name, and OpenStax CNX logo are not subject to the Creative Commons license and may not be reproduced without the prior and express written consent of Rice University.