|Posted on January 2, 2013 at 12:40 PM|
Dark matter makes up the majority of mass in our universe. However, we cannot directly measure the stuff as it doesn't interact with electromagnetic radiation (i.e. it doesn't emit or reflect any light), but we can indirectly observe its presence. In the Hubble Space Telescope image above, the distribution of mostly dark matter has been calculated and mapped. Basically, the location and density of anything with mass has been plotted in a 3D representation of the cosmos.
A 2011 study suggests that mysterious, invisible dark matter could warm millions of starless planets in regions such as Abell 1689 (image below) and make them habitable.
Scientists think the invisible, as-yet-unidentified dark matter which we know exists because of the gravitational effects it has on galaxies, makes up about 85 percent of all matter in the universe. Current prime candidates for what dark matter might be are massive particles that only rarely interact with normal matter.
These particles could be their own antiparticles, meaning they annihilate each other when they meet, releasing energy. These invisible particles could get captured by a planet's gravity and unleash energy that could warm that world, according to physicist Dan Hooper and astrophysicist Jason Steffen at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.
Hooper and Steffen's propose that rocky "super-Earths" in regions with high densities of slow-moving dark matter could be warmed enough to keep liquid water on their surfaces, even in the absence of additional energy from starlight or other sources.The density of dark matter is expected to be hundreds to thousands of times greater in the innermost regions of the Milky Way and in the cores of dwarf spheroidal galaxies than it is in our solar system.
The scientists concluded that on planets in dense "dark-matter" regions, it may be dark matter rather than light that creates the basic elements you need for organic life without a star"
Dark matter, the team believes, could keep the surfaces of such warm for trillions of years, outliving all regular stars and may ultimately prove to be the "dark" bastion of life in our universe.
"I imagine 10 trillion years in the future, when the universe has expanded beyond recognition and all the stars in our galaxy have long since burnt out, the only planets with any heat are these here, and I could imagine that any civilization that survived over this huge stretch of time would start moving to these dark-matter-fueled planets," Hooper said in an interview with space.com.
The Daily Galaxy via astrophysical journal