Cold dark matter
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In cosmology and physics, cold dark matter (CDM) is a hypothetical form of dark matter whose particles moved slowly compared to the speed of light (the cold in CDM) since the universe was approximately one year old (a time when the cosmic particle horizon contained the mass of one typical galaxy); and interact very weakly with ordinary matter and electromagnetic radiation (the dark in CDM). It is believed that approximately 84.54% of matter in the universe is dark matter, with only a small fraction being the ordinary baryonic matter that composes stars, planets, and living organisms.
The theory of cold dark matter was originally published in 1982 by three independent groups of cosmologists; James Peebles, J. Richard Bond, Alex Szalay, and Michael Turner; and George Blumenthal, H. Pagels, and Joel Primack. A review article in 1984 by Blumenthal, Sandra Moore Faber, Primack, and Martin Rees developed the details of the theory.
In the cold dark matter theory, structure grows hierarchically, with small objects collapsing under their self-gravity first and merging in a continuous hierarchy to form larger and more massive objects. In the hot dark matter paradigm, popular in the early 1980s, structure does not form hierarchically (bottom-up), but rather forms by fragmentation (top-down), with the largest superclusters forming first in flat pancake-like sheets and subsequently fragmenting into smaller pieces like our galaxy the Milky Way. Predictions of the cold dark matter paradigm are in general agreement with observations of cosmological large scale structure.
Lambda CDM modelEdit
Since the late 1980s or 1990s, most cosmologists favor the cold dark matter theory (specifically the modern Lambda-CDM model) as a description of how the universe went from a smooth initial state at early times (as shown by the cosmic microwave background radiation) to the lumpy distribution of galaxies and their clusters we see today—the large-scale structure of the universe. The theory sees the role that dwarf galaxies played as crucial, as they are thought to be natural building blocks that form larger structures, created by small-scale density fluctuations in the early universe.
Dark matter is detected through its gravitational interactions with ordinary matter and radiation. As such, it is very difficult to determine what the constituents of cold dark matter are. The candidates fall roughly into three categories:
- Axions, very light particles with a specific type of self-interaction that makes them a suitable CDM candidate. Axions have the theoretical advantage that their existence solves the Strong CP problem in QCD, but have not been detected.
- MACHOs or Massive Compact Halo Objects, large, condensed objects such as black holes, neutron stars, white dwarfs, very faint stars, or non-luminous objects like planets. The search for these consists of using gravitational lensing to see the effect of these objects on background galaxies. Most experts believe that the constraints from those searches rule out MACHOs as a viable dark matter candidate.
- WIMPs, or Weakly Interacting Massive Particles. There is no currently known particle with the required properties, but many extensions of the standard model of particle physics predict such particles. The search for WIMPs involves attempts at direct detection by highly sensitive detectors, as well as attempts at production by particle accelerators. WIMPs are generally regarded as the most promising dark matter candidates. The DAMA/NaI experiment and its successor DAMA/LIBRA have claimed to directly detect dark matter particles passing through the Earth, but many scientists remain skeptical, as no results from similar experiments seem compatible with the DAMA results.
Several discrepancies between the predictions of the particle cold dark matter paradigm and observations of galaxies and their clustering have arisen:
- The cuspy halo problem: the density distributions of dark matter halos in cold dark matter simulations are much more peaked than what is observed in galaxies by investigating their rotation curves.
- The missing satellites problem: cold dark matter simulations predict much larger numbers of small dwarf galaxies than are observed around galaxies like the Milky Way.
- The disk of satellites problem: dwarf galaxies around the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies are observed to be orbiting in thin, planar structures whereas the simulations predict that they should be distributed randomly about their parent galaxies.
- Galaxy morphology problem: If galaxies grew hierarchically, then massive galaxies required many mergers. Major mergers indelibly create a classical bulge. On the contrary, about 80% of observed galaxies are bulgeless, and giant pure disc galaxies are commonplace. The bulgeless fraction was nearly constant for 8 billion years.
Some of these problems have proposed solutions, but it remains unclear whether they can be solved without abandoning the CDM paradigm.
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Dwarf galaxies play a crucial role in the CDM scenario for galaxy formation, having been suggested to be the natural building blocks from which larger structures are built up by merging processes. In this scenario dwarf galaxies are formed from small-scale density fluctuations in the primeval universe.
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