Best of 2016 // #80: The Darkest Galaxy

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Pieter van Dokkum, Roberto Abraham, Gemini, Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Astronomers have found thousands of galaxies, across the universe, using a variety of means.  Two astronomers want to find more, dimmer galaxies in a new way – and it paid off big time.  Using a new telescope, the duo discovered 47 spread out, faint galaxies.  Even crazier, is that they are made of mostly dark matter, a mysterious substance holding galaxies together
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In the early weeks of the year, Astronomers Pieter van Dokkum of Yale and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto, tracked one of the brightest of these 47 galaxies, nicknamed Dragonfly 44, trying to learn it’s mass and features.

Their findings were published in the The Astrophysical Journal Letters over the summer and show that Dragonfly 44 has, surprisingly a similar mass and size as that of our own Milky Way Galaxy – but far fewer stars inside.

If there were fewer stars, what was making the Galaxy so heavy?

This question led the astronomers to calculate that, based on the mass and number of stars, 99.99% of Dragonfly 44’s mass would be in the form a dark matter – a number that doesn’t square with our current understand of hold galaxies form.

 “It opens up this question,” says van Dokkum. “How dark can galaxies really get?”

There’s 99 more stories from 2016.  Check out the Best of 2016 series here

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