When experts conduct studies of extrasolar planet, they tend to assess their potential for supporting life based on some of the traits they can distinguish. But there is often an overlooked factor, some experts say, and that is the influence of dark matter.
In the image attached to this article, the distribution of dark matter in the massive Abell 1689 galaxy cluster is mapped. According to the data, collected by the NASA Hubble Space Telescope, this peculiar form of matter may be warming up millions of exoplanets.
As such, even if those worlds are located just outside of their stars' habitable zones, they could be receiving sufficient warmth to allow for the existence of liquid water on their rough surfaces, Daily Galaxy
Unlike regular, baryonic matter, dark matter is hypothesized to be made out of weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMP), which are their own antiparticles. This means that two WIMP would annihilate each other upon contact.
This makes the stuff tremendously difficult to detect, and so experts can only analyze it through the gravitational effects it exerts on normal matter. The existence of dark matter – which accounts for about a quarter of the Universe's mass – was proposed in order to fix some incomplete theories.
Under Albert Einstein theory of general relativity, galaxies shouldn't be producing the massive gravitational pull that they are generating. In many cases, the mass of all stars, planets and other objects within a galaxy can account for only a fraction of the entire structure's gravitational pull.
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) physicist Dan Hooper and astrophysicist Jason Steffen now propose that the energy dark matter releases as WIMP annihilate themselves may be transferred to exoplanets, warming them up.
The experts say that dark matter concentrations are highest in the central regions of large galaxies such as the Milky Way, but also at the core of dwarf spheroidal galaxies. In places such as the spot on the Perseus Arm where the solar system is located, less dark matter is usually found.
“I imagine 10 trillion years in the future, when the Universe has expanded beyond recognition and all the stars in our galaxy have long since burnt out, the only planets with any heat are these here, and I could imagine that any civilization that survived over this huge stretch of time would start moving to these dark-matter-fueled planets,” Hooper explains.