An invisible giant tears apart the star cluster

Why do stars that light up the Taurus constellation disappear? The explanation may be a huge accumulation of dark matter, whose mass is probably equivalent to about ten million suns.

The Hyades, which are part of Taurus’ constellation, are just over 151 light-years from Earth. It is an open star cluster, which means that it mainly consists of young to middle-aged stars, in contrast to the globular star clusters whose members are older stars.

Now has new study attracted attention that stars included in the Hyades seem to have disappeared. One side of the heap appears to be empty and extinguished.

According to astronomers at the European Space Agency (ESA), the explanation could be a huge accumulation of dark matter, the mass of which would then be equivalent to about ten million suns.

The observation was made with the ESA telescope Gaia

Dark matter can only be detected indirectly through its gravitational impact on the environment, and the discovery of what may be an invisible galactic lump was made with ESA’s Gaia space telescope in connection with a new mapping of the stars in the Hyades.

– This is what’s amazing about the data from the Gaia satellite – for the first time in history we have the opportunity to look for star structures that are hidden among the galaxy’s huge amount of field stars. It is a unique time for astronomers. When you examine the data and compare the discoveries with the theoretical models, the voltage causes the pulse to rise. I mean, when we look up at the stars, they only appear as points of light in a dark sky, and it’s amazing how much we can learn from them and about the universe, says researcher Tereza Jerabkova, who led the team behind the discovery, to Vice.

Read more: Dark matter and dark energy – how little do we really know?

The gravity from the Milky Way has pulled out two tails from the Hyaders’ central cluster of stars, and according to the study, one of them is torn apart by an invisible but at the same time very large force.

Researchers have identified the stars that have been thrown farthest from their previous position in the Hyades. They created a simulation for the cluster that predicted the orbits of stars in operation – and when the result was set against real data, it turned out that the two tails each extend several thousand light-years.

A dark matter-halo

The simulation pointed out that both tails should be fairly symmetrical, but in reality one has comparatively few stars, something that had been observed earlier. If the asymmetry had been caused by the gravitational pull of a gas cloud or another star cluster, they would have been easy to detect – but it is something else that lies and pulls.

– We can see that stars that belong to the nearest star cluster move in a way that they should not do, according to our known and frequently used models. Either the models are incorrect, which would have major implications in physics, or the movements have changed due to lumped dark matter, and this would be a great discovery, says Jerabkova.

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The researchers believe that this is a dark matter-halo, a structure which in turn may consist of lumps of dark matter that are bound together by gravity – so-called sub-halos. They are believed to have appeared early when galaxies were formed, and the prevailing theory is that dark matter halos can make up 84 percent of a galaxy’s total mass.

According to Jerabkova, however, it is not believed that the dark matter devours the stars, but they seem to disappear because their orbits have changed, which causes them to be hidden by the black matter and the tails of the star cluster. Although we are close to the Hyades, ESA does not believe that the Earth’s orbit will be affected by the same phenomenon simply because the solar system is too small to be captured.


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