There are theories with a small “t” and theories with a capital “T.” For the last two decades the concept that most stuff in the universe comes in an invisible form called Dark Matter has grown into the second kind. It’s a Theory or a paradigm with lots of overlapping strands of evidence coming together to form a tightly woven fabric. Much of modern astronomy relies on the fabric of Dark Matter for a coherent account of the universe and its history.
It’s not easy to overturn Theories because their reach is so wide. It does happen however and, when it does, there are usually key experiments that get the ball rolling. For Dark Matter, it just may be possible that one of those experiments has made its first public appearance.
This week a team of astronomers from the European Southern Observatory (ESO) released a study of stellar motions in the local volume of the Milky Way, our galaxy. Based on the way these stars moved (the way gravity pulled them into motion), the scientists hoped to infer the presence of Dark Matter. They did not find any.
None. Nada. Zip. Zero. -Adam Frank
(Photo credit: L. Calçada/ESO)