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Physicists explain mysterious dark matter deficiency in galaxy pair

A new theory about the nature of dark matter helps explain why a pair of galaxies about 65 million light-years from Earth contains very little of the mysterious matter, according to a study led by a physicist at the University of California, Riverside.

Dark matter is nonluminous and cannot be seen directly. Thought to make up 85% of matter in the universe, its nature is not well understood. Unlike normal matter, it does not absorb, reflect, or emit light, making it difficult to detect.

The prevailing dark matter theory, known as cold dark matter, or CDM, assumes dark matter particles are collisionless, aside from gravity. A newer second theory, called self-interacting dark matter, or SIDM, proposes dark matter particles self-interact through a new dark force. Both theories explain how the overall structure of the universe emerges, but they predict different dark matter distributions in the inner regions of a galaxy. SIDM suggests dark matter particles strongly collide with one another in a galaxy's inner halo, close to its center.

Typically, a visible galaxy is hosted by an invisible dark matter halo—a concentrated clump of material, shaped like a ball, that surrounds the galaxy and is held together by gravitational forces. Recent observations of two ultra-diffuse galaxies, NGC 1052-DF2 and NGC 1052-DF4, show, however, that this pair of galaxies contains very little, if any, dark matter, challenging physicists' understanding of galaxy formation. Astrophysical observations suggest NGC 1052-DF2 and NGC 1052-DF4 are likely satellite galaxies of NGC1052.

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