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Tag Archives: dwarf galaxies

Leo II Dwarf Orbits Milky Way: Dark Matter or Emerging Gravity

In a prior blog, “The Curiously Tangential Dwarf Galaxies”, I reported on results from Cautun and Frenk that indicate that a set of 10 dwarf satellite galaxies near the Milky Way with measured proper motions have much more tangential velocity than expected by random. Formally, there is a 5 standard deviation negative velocity anisotropy with over 80% of the kinetic energy in tangential motion.

While in no way definitive, this result appears inconsistent with the canonical cold dark matter assumptions. So one speculation is that the tangential motions are reflective of the theory of emergent gravity, for which dark matter is not required, but for which the gravitational force changes (strengthens) at very low accelerations, of order c \cdot H, where H is the Hubble parameter, and the value at which the force begins to strengthen works out to be accelerations of only less than about 2 centimeters per second per year.

One of the 10 dwarf galaxies in the sample is Leo II. The study of its proper motion has been reported by Piatek, Pryor, and Olszewski. They find that the galactocentric radial and tangential velocity components are 22 and 127 kilometers per second, respectively. While there is a rather large uncertainty in the tangential component, for their measured values some 97% of the kinetic energy is in the tangential motion.

local_group_and_nearest_galaxies

Artist’s rendering of the Local Group of galaxies. This representation is centered on the Milky Way, you can see a large number of dwarf galaxies near the Milky Way and many near the Andromeda Galaxy as well. Leo II is in the swarm around our Milky Way. Image credit: Antonio Ciccolella. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

So let’s look at the implications for this dwarf galaxy, assuming that it is in a low-eccentricity, nearly circular orbit about the Milky Way, which seems possible. We can compare calculations for Newtonian gravity with the implications from Verlinde’s emergent gravity framework.

Under the assumption of a near circular orbit, either there is a lot of dark matter in the Milky Way explaining the high tangential orbital velocity of Leo II, or there is excess gravity. So what do the two alternatives look like?

Let’s look at the dark matter case first. The ordinary matter mass of the Milky Way is measured to be 60 billion solar masses, mostly in stars, but considering gas as well. The distance to the Leo II dwarf galaxy is 236 kiloparsecs (770,000 light-years), well beyond the Milky Way’s outer radius.

So to first order, for a roughly spherical Milky Way, including a dark matter halo, we can evaluate what the total mass including dark matter would be required to hold Leo II in a circular orbit. This is determined by equating the centripetal acceleration v²/R to the gravitational acceleration inward GM/R². So the gravitational mass under Newtonian physics required for velocity v at distance R for a circular orbit is M = R v² / G. Using the tangential velocity and the distance measures above yields a required mass of 870 billion solar masses.

This is 14 times larger than the Milky way’s known ordinary matter mass from stars and gas. Now there are some other dwarf galaxies such as the Magellanic Clouds within the sphere of influence, but they are very much smaller, so this estimate of the total mass required is reasonable to first order. The assumption of circularity is a larger uncertainty. But what this says is something like 13 times as much dark matter as ordinary matter would be required.

Now let’s look at the emergent gravity situation. In this case there is no dark matter, but there is extra acceleration over and above the acceleration due to Newtonian gravity.  To be clear, emergent gravity predicts both general relativity and an extra acceleration term. When the acceleration is modest general relativity reduces to Newtonian dynamics. And when it is very low the total acceleration in the emergent gravity model includes both a Newtonian term and an extra term related to the volume entropy contribution.

In other words, gT = gN + gE is the total acceleration, with gN = GM/R² the Newtonian term and gE the extra term in the emergent gravity formulation. The gN term is calculated using the ordinary mass of 60 billion solar masses, and one gets a tiny acceleration of gN = 1.5 \cdot 10^{-11} centimeters / second / second (cm/s/s).

The extra, or emergent gravity, acceleration is given by the formula gE = sqrt (gN \cdot c \cdot H / 6 ), where H is the Hubble parameter (here we use 70 kilometers/second/Megaparsec). The value of c \cdot H / 6 turns out to be 1.1 \cdot 10^{-8} cm/s/s. This is just a third of a centimeter per second per year.

The extra emergent gravity term from Verlinde’s paper is the square root of the product of 1.1 \cdot 10^{-8} and the Newtonian term amounting to 1.5 \cdot 10^{-11} . Thus the extra gravity is 4.1 \cdot 10^{-10} cm/s/s, which is 27 times larger than the Newtonian acceleration. The total gravity is about 28 times that or 4.3 \cdot 10^{-10} cm/s/s. Now a 28 times larger gravitational acceleration leads to tangential orbital velocities over 5 times greater than expected in the Newtonian case.

Setting v²/R = 4.3 \cdot 10^{-10} cm/s/s and using the distance to Leo II results in an orbital velocity of 177 kilometers/second. With the Newtonian gravity and ordinary matter mass of the Milky Way, one would expect only 33 km/s, a velocity over 5 times lower.

Now the observed tangential velocity is 127 km/s, so the calculated number with emergent gravity is a bit high, but there is no guarantee of a circular orbit. Also, Verlinde’s model assumes quasi-static conditions, and this assumption may break down for a dynamically young system. The time to traverse the distance to Leo II using its radial velocity is of order 10 billion years, so the system may not have settled down sufficiently. There could also be tidal effects from neighbors, or possibly from Andromeda.

This is not a clear argument demonstrating that the Leo II dwarf galaxy’s observed tangential velocity is explained by emergent gravity. But it is a plausible alternative explanation, and made here to show how the calculations work out in this sample case.

So the main alternatives are a Milky Way dominated by dark matter and with a mass close to a trillion solar masses, or a Milky Way of ordinary matter only amounting to 60 billion solar masses. But in that latter case, the Milky Way exerts an extra gravitational force due to emergent gravity that only becomes apparent at very small accelerations less than about 10^{-8} cm/s/s.

Future work with the Hubble and future telescopes is expected to determine many more proper motions in the Local Group so that a fuller dynamical picture of the system can be developed. This will help to discriminate between the emergent gravity and dark matter alternatives.

 

 

 

 

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Supernovae Destroy Dwarf Galaxies: Dark Matter is Safe

The existence of dark matter has not exactly been under threat – the ratio of dark matter to ordinary matter in the universe is well established, at about 5:1 in favor of dark matter. Consistent results are found between observations of the cosmic microwave background, observations of clusters of galaxies, and observations of the rotation curves of galaxies. (The MOND theory as an alternative to dark matter does not do well at scales greater than that of individual galaxy rotation curves.)

But there has been an issue around galaxy formation. It has been expected that many more dwarf galaxies should be seen in our Local Group, which is dominated by the Andromeda Galaxy (#1) and our Milky Way Galaxy (#2, sorry folks), along with the aptly named Triangulum Galaxy (#3).

Where are the Dwarfs?

Our Milky Way has only around 30 dwarf galaxies as companions, the best known of which are the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. While a few more have been discovered only recently, simulations of galaxy formation have previously suggested this number ought to be more than 1000! This posed a problem for both our understanding of dark matter and our understanding of galaxy formation.

Now, from CalTech comes a much more detailed simulation of how galaxies similar to the Milky Way are formed. The researchers used over 700,000 CPU hours of supercomputer time to create the most detailed simulation ever of the galaxy formation and evolution processes.

“In a galaxy, you have 100 billion stars, all pulling on each other, not to mention other components we don’t see like dark matter. To simulate this, we give a supercomputer equations describing those interactions and then let it crank through those equations repeatedly and see what comes out at the end.”  – Caltech’s Phil Hopkins, associate professor of theoretical astrophysics.

Death by Supernova

Postdoc Andrew Wetzel and Prof. Hopkins paid special attention to the effects of supernovae. When supernovae explode they release tremendous amounts of kinetic energy. They generate powerful winds that reach speeds of over a thousand kilometers per second.

In a dwarf galaxy an individual supernova can have substantial effect. The researchers’ simulations indicate that dwarf galaxies can actually be destroyed by the effect of even a single supernova during their early history. Stars and gas that would form future stars can both be blown out of the dwarf galaxies. In addition, many dwarf galaxies in the Milky Way’s neighborhood would have been destroyed by the gravitational tidal forces of the Milky Way, the simulations show.

These advanced galaxy evolution simulations appear to solve the dark matter and dwarf galaxy problem. The authors plan to refine their results and develop even greater understanding of galaxy formation with simulations of even greater power in the future.

simgalaxy-face-on-hr

Simulated View of Milky Way Galaxy
The formation and evolution of the galaxy were done on a supercomputer. Credit: Hopkins Research Group/Caltech

References:

https://www.caltech.edu/news/recreating-our-galaxy-supercomputer-51995

https://youtu.be/e7KuwjGGxBw


Discovery of several dwarf galaxies near the Magellanic Clouds

Dwarf galaxies are, as the name implies, small or even tiny galaxies with much lower mass and luminosity than large galaxies such as our own Milky Way galaxy or the Andromeda galaxy or Triangulum galaxy. The first two galaxies are the dominant members of our Local Group of galaxies, which has over 50 members. While the Milky Way and Andromeda have over 200 billion stars each, most all of the others are much smaller and intrinsically fainter, and thus are considered dwarf galaxies. Around half of these known dwarf galaxies are companions to our Milky Way, and the rest are companions of Andromeda.

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Previously known dwarf satellite galaxies around our Milky Way galaxy are shown as blue dots and the 9 new candidates are shown as red dots. Image: Yao-Yuan Mao, Ralf Kaehler, Risa Wechsler (KIPAC/SLAC).

The Dark Energy Survey “powered up” in the second half of 2013. Using the Dark Energy  Camera at the Cerro Tololo Inter-American observatory in Chile, two teams of astronomers have now made a stunning discovery of 9 new dwarf objects in the vicinity of, and gravitationally bound to, our own Milky Way. Three of these are confirmed to be dwarf galaxies. The other six objects are either dwarf galaxies or globular clusters, and further observations will be required to determine how many of these are indeed dwarf galaxies.

These new dwarf galaxies and dwarf galaxy candidates were found in the vicinity of the Magellanic Clouds, in the Southern Hemisphere. Those are themselves the two best known of all dwarf galaxies, but are substantially brighter and larger than these new dwarf galaxy candidates. In fact it is possible, but not certain, that the newly discovered dwarf galaxies have interacted with one or both of the Magellanic Clouds in the past.

This discovery of 3 or more new dwarf galaxies near to our Milky Way, in the range of about 100,000 light-years to 1.2 million light-years away from us, has important implications for our understanding of dark matter and cosmology generally. We know from a wide range of observations, including the latest Planck satellite results, that dark matter is 5 times more common than ordinary matter in the universe.

Dark matter and ordinary matter are distributed differently. Think of dark matter as the scaffolding which controls the overall distribution of matter at large scale. Ordinary matter is thus controlled gravitationally by the dark matter background. But ordinary matter also clumps together at smaller scales because as it collapses (falls into a gravitational potential well) it heats up via frictional processes. Next it radiates away energy, leading to cooling, and thus further collapse. This is how we end up with galaxies and stellar formation.

Large galaxies will be dominated by ordinary matter toward their centers, but by dark matter in their outer regions and halos. Many dwarf galaxies appear to have few stars, as little as only a few thousand, reflecting quite modest amounts of ordinary matter. These galaxies are heavily dominated by dark matter, sometimes 99% or more.

There is a whole theory of galaxy formation based on the growth of dark matter-dominated density perturbations that collapse under their own gravity, even while the universe as a whole is expanding. Ordinary matter is pulled into the regions of high dark matter density, leading to galaxy formation. Low density regions do not collapse, but keep on expanding in,the “Hubble flow”.

Numerical simulations of the growth of these dark matter density perturbations and of galaxy formation suggest there should be large numbers of dwarf galaxies. As we continue to discover more dwarf galaxies in the vicinity of our Milky Way, through the Dark Energy Survey and other experiments, our confidence in our understanding of cosmology and of galactic formation and evolution will continue to grow.

References

http://www.cnet.com/news/our-new-neighbours-rare-dwarf-galaxies-found-orbiting-the-milky-way/  – CNET article

http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/welcome-to-the-neighbourhood-new-dwarf-galaxies-discovered-in-orbit-around-the-milky-way – Article at University of Cambridge astronomy web site

http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2015/DES-Dwarf-Galaxies-20150310.html – Article at Fermilab web site (home of the Dark Energy Survey)

http://www.darkenergysurvey.org – Dark Energy Survey web site

http://arxiv.org/abs/1503.02079 – S. Koposov, V. Belokurov, G. Torrealba, N. Wyn Evans, ”Beasts of the Southern Wild. Discovery of a large number of Ultra Faint satellites in the vicinity of the Magellanic Clouds”


Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope Search for Dark Matter

Dwarf Galaxy in Fornax, Credit: ESO/Digital Sky Survey 2

All of our evidence for dark matter is indirect, that is, we deduce the existence of substantial amounts of dark matter – exceeding the amount of ‘ordinary matter’ by 5 times – from its gravitational effects at large distances, on the scale of galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and even across regions of a billion light-years in size.

The generally favored hypothesis is that dark matter is composed of some sort of new weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP). Such a WIMP would not interact via the electromagnetic force or the strong nuclear force, and thus is very hard to detect directly. There are a number of experiments underway attempting to directly detect the elusive particle. The majority of these are earthbound experiments wherein ordinary matter in crystalline form is used as the detector. Three of these experiments are in fact claiming statistically significant detection rates, the DAMA/Libra experiment in Italy, the CRESST experiment based in Germany, and the COGENT experiment in the U.S.

In this class of experiments one is looking to detect a collision of a dark matter particle with an ordinary matter particle, and if detection is successful, to determine the mass of the dark matter particle, as well as its cross-section for collision with ordinary matter. The cross-section is a way of measuring how close the ordinary matter particle and dark matter particle have to approach each other to have a collision event. A collision event produces decay products (additional particles) that the experiments are then able to detect. The results of the 3 experiments named above are still highly controversial, as a number of other similar experiments are not confirming detection, but collectively they may indicate detection of WIMPs with mass in a range around 5 to 40 times the mass of a proton.

Another approach to more directly detecting dark matter (i.e., not through its gravitational effects) is to look for dark matter particles colliding with one another. The number of such events occurring at the Earth’s surface is expected to be quite low, so one must look into the cosmos. Recently some scientists calculated that about one dark matter particle a month on average strikes an atom inside a human on Earth (but not to worry, other background radiation to which we are exposed is much more significant). But we are in a region of over-concentration of ordinary matter; dark matter is spread out on the largest scales. We need to examine much bigger regions to observe dark matter particles striking one another. But look for what, and how?

NASA’s orbiting Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope provides one way. When two dark matter particles collide, depending on the nature of the dark matter particle (is it its own anti-particle), they can possibly mutually annhilate and produce very energetic gamma-ray photons. Gamma rays are at the most energetic end of the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes X-rays, visible light, and radio waves.

Recently the LAT, or Large Area Telescope, which is the main instrument on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope (in orbit) reported on results based on two years of searching for gamma ray production from dark matter annihilation. The method used was to monitor 10 dwarf galaxies that are gravitationally bound to our Milky Way galaxy.

Take a look at this video from NASA Goddard: No WIMPS in Space?

Dwarf galaxies are thought to be good candidates for this type of dark matter search, as they are the remnants of so-called dark matter halos that may have been the first large-scale gravitationally bound objects to form. Larger galaxies in turn grew from multiple such halos coming together, but today’s remaining dwarf galaxies did not get caught up in significant merger activity. They also have mature stellar populations, so there is not a lot of ongoing activity with respect to supernovae or black holes that would produce gamma rays from these other causes.

The international team using the Fermi telescope looked for gamma rays with energies up to 100 billion electron volts (about 100 times the rest mass energy equivalent of a proton), but did not find any that could be clearly attributed to dark matter. The search will continue, gathering more statistics over time and adding additional target dwarf galaxies to their measurements, in the hopes of either finding dark matter through this method, or putting more constraints on its properties.

References:

http://www.cresst.de/darkmatter.php – CRESST experiment

http://cogent.pnnl.gov/ – COGENT experiment

http://people.roma2.infn.it/~dama/web/home.html – DAMA/LIBRA experiment

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fermi_Gamma-ray_Space_Telescope

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dark_matter#Direct_detection_experiments

http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/GLAST/news/dark-matter-insights.html – Fermi Gamma-ray telescope