In Brief
According to a June 2014 study published in American Physical Society, scientists observed dark matter being absorbed by dark energy. This slows the growth of the Universe.

Scientists at the University of Rome and Portsmouth published a paper in American Physical Society in June 2014 which described dark matter slowly being engulfed by dark energy.

Dark matter is almost completely undetectable matter that astronomers and cosmologists have calculated to exist within our universe, hence the name “dark.” Dark energy is an accepted model of energy that permeates all matter and space, and is responsible for the acceleration of the expansion of the universe.

Why are they of interest?

In the paper, the cosmologists discuss how recent astronomical data favors the idea that dark energy grows as it interacts with dark matter, which can help explain the mechanics of the expansion of the universe.

“If the dark energy is growing and dark matter is evaporating we will end up with a big, empty, boring universe with almost nothing in it,” said Professor David Wands, the Director of Portsmouth’s Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation.

Professor Wands continued, “Dark matter provides a framework for structures to grow in the Universe. The galaxies we see are built on that scaffolding and what we are seeing here, in these findings, suggests that dark matter is evaporating, slowing that growth of structure.”

How does this play a role in the understanding of our universe?

As our understanding of the universe changes, so does our approach in pursuing more knowledge about its every aspect. In 1998, researchers observing distant supernovae found that they were fainter than expected. The most accepted explanation for the variance is that the light emitted from the supernovae traveled a greater distance than theorists had predicted. This observation lead to the conclusion that space must have expanded at an accelerating rate as it traveled. The phenomenon was later attributed to the existence of dark energy, which completely revolutionized the scientific community’s way of looking at the structure of the universe, and in essence, the very foundation of our existence.

If dark energy continues its dominance in the Universe, every galaxy beyond our neighborhood will one day no longer be visible
If dark energy continues its dominance in the Universe, every galaxy beyond our neighborhood will one day no longer be visible. Image Credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss

Now, researchers believe that it is the evaporation of dark matter that can explain why the growth of cosmic structures, such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies, seems to be slower than expected.

The availability of more data allows researchers such as Professor Wands to examine the mechanics and interactions of various cosmic phenomena more precisely.

“Much more data is available now than was available in 1998 and it appears that the standard model is no longer sufficient to describe all of the data. We think we’ve found a better model of dark energy,” Wands said. “However there is growing evidence that this simple model cannot explain the full range of astronomical data researchers now have access to; in particular the growth of cosmic structure, galaxies and clusters of galaxies, seems to be slower than expected.”

One must keep in mind that dark energy and dark matter is a subject about which very little is understood. As more data becomes available, a more detailed structure of our universe can be developed, which isn’t possible without researchers such as Prof. Wands, Dr. Marco Bruni, and their research students.