IN THE early days – and we’re speaking very early, not lengthy after the large bang – the universe might need been suffering from unusual stellar monsters. Vast sufficient to engulf our complete photo voltaic system, these stars can be powered not by nuclear fusion, like a daily star, however as an alternative by darkish matter: particularly, particles of this mysterious stuff self-annihilating to gas so-called “darkish stars”.
That’s the thought, at the least. However when Katherine Freese, a theoretical astrophysicist on the College of Texas at Austin, first introduced it at a convention in 2007, it didn’t go down significantly effectively. “I overheard some graduate college students calling us crackpots,” she says.
Regardless, the idea of darkish stars has caught with Freese. Over the previous 16 years, she and her colleagues have refined their understanding of those tantalising hypothetical objects. The issue was, discovering proof for them all the time appeared out of attain.
Till just lately, that’s, as a result of Freese and her colleagues have reported a possible sighting: uncommon galaxies seen by a brand new telescope. “Perhaps a few of these objects aren’t actually galaxies in any respect, however truly singular stars – darkish stars,” says workforce member Jillian Paulin, then at Colgate College in New York.
Echoes of doubt nonetheless sound amongst different astronomers. “It’s a really controversial thought,” says Cosmin Ilie, additionally at Colgate College, who led the workforce. But when they do exist, darkish stars wouldn’t solely be proof for a selected type of darkish matter. They may additionally assist crack one of many largest issues in cosmology – the mysterious origins of the supermassive black holes that drive galactic evolution.
Our universe is awash with darkish …