Fermi Observations of Dwarf Galaxies Provide New Insights on Dark Matter
- Visualizations by:
- Scott Wiessinger
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Scientists working with data from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope have looked for signals from some of these hypothetical particles by zeroing in on 10 small, faint galaxies that orbit our own. Although no signals have been detected, a novel analysis technique applied to two years of data from the observatory's Large Area Telescope (LAT) has essentially eliminated these particle candidates for the first time.
WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, represent a favored class of dark matter candidates. Some WIMPs may mutually annihilate when pairs of them interact, a process expected to produce gamma rays — the most energetic form of light — that the LAT is designed to detect.
The team examined two years of LAT-detected gamma rays with energies in the range from 200 million to 100 billion electron volts (GeV) from 10 of the roughly two dozen dwarf galaxies known to orbit the Milky Way. Instead of analyzing the results for each galaxy separately, the scientists developed a statistical technique — they call it a "joint likelihood analysis" — that evaluates all of the galaxies at once without merging the data together. No gamma-ray signal consistent with the annihilations expected from four different types of commonly considered WIMP particles was found.
For the first time, the results show that WIMP candidates within a specific range of masses and interaction rates cannot be dark matter. A paper detailing these results appeared in the Dec. 9, 2011, issue of Physical Review Letters.
No one knows what dark matter is, but it constitutes 80 percent of the matter in our universe. By studying numerous dwarf galaxies — satellite systems that orbit our own Milky Way galaxy — NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has produced some of the strongest limits yet on the nature of the hypothetical particles suspected of making up dark matter. Short, narrated video.
Poster image, and dark matter simulations credit: Simulation: Wu, Hahn, Wechsler, Abel(KIPAC), Visualization: Kaehler (KIPAC)
Watch this video on the NASAexplorer YouTube channel.
For complete transcript, click here.
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Please give credit for this item to:
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center. However, please credit individual items as indicated above.
- Scott Wiessinger (KBRwyle) [Lead]
- Donna Cox (AVL NCSA/University of Illinois)
- Ralf Kaehler (KIPAC/Standford)
- Walt Feimer (KBRwyle)
- Francis Reddy (University of Maryland College Park)
- Scott Wiessinger (KBRwyle)
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Datasets used in this visualization
Fermi (Collected with the LAT sensor)
Fermi Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) Large Area Telescope (LAT)
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