Dwarf galaxy problem

Dwarf galaxy problem

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The dwarf galaxy problem is one that arises from numerical cosmological
Physical cosmology
Physical cosmology, as a branch of astronomy, is the study of the largest-scale structures and dynamics of the universe and is concerned with fundamental questions about its formation and evolution. For most of human history, it was a branch of metaphysics and religion...

 simulation
Simulation
Simulation is the imitation of some real thing available, state of affairs, or process. The act of simulating something generally entails representing certain key characteristics or behaviours of a selected physical or abstract system....

s that predict the evolution of the distribution of matter
Matter
Matter is a general term for the substance of which all physical objects consist. Typically, matter includes atoms and other particles which have mass. A common way of defining matter is as anything that has mass and occupies volume...

 in the universe
Universe
The Universe is commonly defined as the totality of everything that exists, including all matter and energy, the planets, stars, galaxies, and the contents of intergalactic space. Definitions and usage vary and similar terms include the cosmos, the world and nature...

. Dark matter
Dark matter
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is matter that neither emits nor scatters light or other electromagnetic radiation, and so cannot be directly detected via optical or radio astronomy...

 seems to cluster hierarchically and in ever increasing number counts for smaller and smaller sized halos
Galactic halo
The term galactic halo is used to denote an extended, roughly spherical component of a galaxy, which extends beyond the main, visible component. It can refer to any of several distinct components which share these properties:* the galactic spheroid...

. However, while there seems to be enough observed normal-sized galaxies
Galaxy
A galaxy is a massive, gravitationally bound system that consists of stars and stellar remnants, an interstellar medium of gas and dust, and an important but poorly understood component tentatively dubbed dark matter. The word galaxy is derived from the Greek galaxias , literally "milky", a...

 to account for this distribution, the number of dwarf galaxies
Dwarf galaxy
A dwarf galaxy is a small galaxy composed of up to several billion stars, a small number compared to our own Milky Way's 200-400 billion stars...

 is orders of magnitude lower than expected from simulation. For comparison, there were observed to be around 38 dwarf galaxies in the Local Group
Local Group
The Local Group is the group of galaxies that includes Earth's galaxy, the Milky Way. The group comprises more than 30 galaxies , with its gravitational center located somewhere between the Milky Way and the Andromeda Galaxy...

, and only around 11 orbiting the Milky Way
Milky Way
The Milky Way is the galaxy that contains the Solar System. This name derives from its appearance as a dim un-resolved "milky" glowing band arching across the night sky...

, (for a detailed and more up to date list see Milky Way's satellite galaxies
Milky Way's satellite galaxies
The Milky Way Galaxy has several smaller galaxies gravitationally bound to it, as part of the Milky Way subgroup. This subgroup is part of the local galaxy cluster, the Local Group.The Milky Way's satellite galaxies include the following:-Clickable map:...

) yet one dark matter simulation predicted around 500 Milky Way dwarf satellites.

This problem has two potential solutions. One is that the smaller halos do exist but only a few of them end up becoming visible because they have not been able to attract enough baryonic matter to create a visible dwarf galaxy. In support of this Keck observations in 2007 of eight newly discovered ultra-faint Milky Way dwarf satellites showed that six were around 99.9% dark matter (with a mass to light ratio
Mass to light ratio
In astrophysics and physical cosmology the mass to light ratio, normally designated with the symbol \Upsilon is the quotient between the total mass of a spatial volume and its luminosity...

 of about 1000) Other solutions may be that dwarf galaxies tend to be gobbled up or tidally
Tidal force
The tidal force is a secondary effect of the force of gravity and is responsible for the tides. It arises because the gravitational force per unit mass exerted on one body by a second body is not constant across its diameter, the side nearest to the second being more attracted by it than the side...

 stripped apart by larger galaxies due to complex interactions. This tidal stripping has been part of the problem in identifying dwarf galaxies in the first place, which is an extremely difficult task since these objects have low surface brightness and are highly diffused, so much that they are virtually unnoticeable even in our own backyard.

See also

  • Dark galaxy
    Dark galaxy
    A dark galaxy is a hypothetical galaxy composed of dark matter. Dark galaxies receive their name because they have no detectable stars and are theoretically invisible...

  • Cold dark matter
    Cold dark matter
    Cold dark matter is the improvement of the big bang theory that contains the additional assumption that most of the matter in the Universe consists of material that cannot be observed by its electromagnetic radiation and whose constituent particles move slowly...

  • Cuspy halo problem
    Cuspy halo problem
    The cuspy halo problem arises from cosmological simulations that seem to indicate cold dark matter would form cuspy distributions — that is, increasing sharply to a high value at a central point — in the most dense areas of the universe. This would imply that the center of our galaxy,...

     (also known as "the core/cusp problem")
  • List of unsolved problems in physics

External links