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Astronomers Find a Galaxy Without Dark Matter for the First Time

30 March 2018

This galaxy, NGC 1052-DF2, is the size of the Milky Way but only has 1/200 the amount of stars, with no dense center or spiral arms or black hole.

Galaxies and dark matter were two concepts that were directly related to scientists, but it seems that this will change as astronomers have found for the first time a galaxy that seems to have nearly no dark matter.

"Finding a galaxy without dark matter is unexpected because this invisible, mysterious substance is the most dominant aspect of any galaxy."
This is not observed in NGC 1052-DF2, which resides about 65 million light-years away in the NGC 1052 Group, which is dominated by a massive elliptical galaxy called NGC 1052. "It's so rare, particularly these days after so many years of Hubble, that you get an image of something and you say, 'I've never seen that before'. It is literally a see-through galaxy".

Even though the galaxy is mostly empty, they found clusters of densely grouped stars.

"NASA's Hubble Space Telescope took an image of a freakish, ghostly looking galaxy called NGC 1052-DF2 that astronomers calculate to have little to no dark matter".

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The galaxy had been imaged before but on second look, the team noticed it looked very different from other imaged galaxies.

Scientists have discovered a galaxy with nearly no dark matter.

It's a "game changer" galaxy, astronomers are saying, and it's like nothing we've ever seen before. "It's the glue that holds the visible matter in galaxies - stars and gas - together", it explained, in a statement on the discovery. It is classified as an ultra-diffuse galaxy, a kind first recognized in 2015.

So, when astronomers look at the galaxies, our own Milky Way included, they find that the normal matter - stars, dust, nebulae, etc - are moving so fast that they'll all just fly apart from one another.

Van Dokkum believes that this galaxy has a potential to prove that dark matter is real. "This result also suggests that there may be more than one way to form a galaxy".

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Each of these would certainly have to be analyzed in information to identify if it can develop the distinctive attributes of NGC1052- DF2. Of course, they point out that most of the things we've found that look similar have turned out to have an excess of dark matter, so there's a lot we still need to figure out here. That brought about an approximated mass that was incredibly reduced for a galaxy- like 108 solar masses.

The newly discovered galaxy is called NGC1052-DF2, or DF2 for short. Yet in this unusual galaxy, the projected signatures of these exotic effects are not seen.

Another idea is that gas moving toward the giant elliptical NGC 1052 may have fragmented and formed NGC 1052-DF2.

To imagine this process, you can visualize dark matter as a diffuse collection of individual particles-unlike ordinary matter, which clumps into stars and planets. If dark matter were one of the unexplained effects of the gravity that differentiates it from regular matter, the effect of it would be visible in the galaxy.

The research was published online in the journal Nature. NGC1052-DF2 disproves that theory, providing further evidence to the actual existence of dark matter. It turns out that a galaxy without dark matter is incompatible with models that replace it using modified gravity.

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Meanwhile, the researchers already have some ideas about how to explain the missing dark matter in NGC 1052-DF2. Future observatories under construction, such as the European Extremely Large Telescope in Chile's Atacama Desert, or NASA's James Webb Space Telescope, should be able to take such measurements.

Astronomers Find a Galaxy Without Dark Matter for the First Time