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Roughly 80% of the mass of the universe is made up of material that scientists cannot directly observe. Known as dark matter, this bizarre ingredient does not emit light or energy. So why do scientists think it dominates?
Since at least the 1920s, astronomers have hypothesized that the universe contains more matter than seen by the naked eye. Support for dark matter has grown since then, and although no solid direct evidence of dark matter has been detected, there have been strong possibilities in recent years.
Material - Universe - Matter - Protons - Neutrons
The familiar material of the universe, known as baryonic matter, is composed of protons, neutrons and electrons. Dark matter may be made of baryonic or non-baryonic matter. To hold the elements of the universe together, dark matter must make up approximately 80% percent of the universe. The missing matter could simply be more challenging to detect, made up of regular, baryonic matter.
Potential candidates include dim brown dwarfs, white dwarfs and neutrino stars. Supermassive black holes could also be part of the difference. But these hard-to-spot objects would have to play a more dominant role than scientists have observed to make up the missing mass, while other elements suggest that dark matter is more exotic.
Scientists - Matter - Matter - Candidate - WIMPS
Most scientists think that dark matter is composed of non-baryonic matter. The lead candidate, WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles), have ten to a hundred times the mass of a proton, but their weak interactions with "normal" matter make them difficult to detect. Neutralinos, massive hypothetical particles heavier and slower than neutrinos, are the foremost candidate, though they have yet to be spotted.
Sterile neutrinos are another candidate. Neutrinos are particles that don't make up regular matter. A river of neutrinos streams from the sun, but because they rarely interact with normal matter, they pass through the Earth and its inhabitants. There...
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