Markarian 1216 isn’t like other galaxies.
With stars nearly as old as the universe itself, Mrk 1216 has had billions of years to evolve. Now, astronomers have used data from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory to shine a light on the ancient galaxy’s history — and found that it’s absolutely loaded with dark matter.
For the research, which was recently published in The Astrophysical Journal, the astronomers studied the temperature and X-ray brightness of hot gas at varying distances from Mrk 1216’s core. This allowed them to determine just how much dark matter was contained in the center of the galaxy — and it wasn’t what they expected.
“When we compared the Chandra data to our computer models, we found a much stronger concentration of dark matter was required than we find in other galaxies of similar total mass,” astronomer David Buote said in a press release. “This tells us the history of Mrk 1216 is very different from the typical galaxy. Essentially all of its stars and dark matter was assembled long ago with little added in the past 10 billion years.”
The astronomers are hopeful their study will eventually improve our understanding of the nature of dark matter — not just where it’s concentrated.
“The dense accumulation of dark matter in the middle of Mrk 1216 may provide an interesting test for non-standard theories that predict less centrally concentrated dark matter,” Buote said, “such as for dark matter particles that interact with each other by an additional means other than gravity.”
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