Evidence for Dark Matter

The Dark Matter Universe

Last time we saw that flat rotation curves for galaxies, when measured in galaxies with extended gas distributions, provides unambiguous data that shows the mass distribution is dominated by an unseen, spherical halo. In extreme cases, this halo can dominate at all radii. In most cases, however, the luminous material dominates within 1-2 scale lengths for a typical spiral galaxy. But remember our caveats:

  • Perhaps only galaxies with extended dark matter halos are capable of retaining large gaseous extents?

  • Modified Newtonian Dynamics? --> let's assume that there is no dark matter, what you see is what you get, and use rotation curves to learn about gravity on large scales

    Clusters of Galaxies:

    Historically, this was the first set of observations that hinted at dark matter. This is the subject of problem 3 in the homework.

    However, substructure can fool you.

    The case of the Cancer cluster:

    Cancer is a spiral rich cluster of about 100 bright galaxies. Below is the velocity distribution of galaxies in the Cancer cluster:

    IF you treat the above distribution as belonging to one system and just apply the virial theorem you determine that the Cancer Cluster has M/L = 1000 (!). If this value is representative of clusters of galaxies then

    What's going on in Cancer? That's what Bothun et. al asked in 1983. To answer that question required a complete redshift survey (see Figure above) coupled with an analysis of the spatial distribution of the galaxies.

    Plotting contours of Galaxy density in Cancer suggested that the distribution of galaxies was not relaxed; that is secondary density maxima appeared. These are labelled A thru E below:

    This brought up the issue if redshift and position were correlated in this cluster. That is, do galaxies in Group A have different velcoities than galaxies in Group B or C? After a thorough analysis it was shown that these two were highly correlated and that the Cancer cluster could in fact be decomposed into individual groups. In redshift space these groups are shown here:

    There is a clear separation of these components in mean velocity and each component has an internal velocity dispersion of about 300 km/s. The M/L of these individual components is 200--300. Furthermore, the components themselves are not gravitationally bound. That is, the Cancer cluster is really an unbound collection of groups:

    While Cancer is an extreme case, most all clusters do show some evidence of substructure. Hence, the measured velocity dispersion in these cases does not apply to one dynamical system but to, perhaps, several. Failure to adequately account for substructure in clusters of glaxies leads to systematic overestimates of M/L.

    The observation that most clusters have significant substructure implies that cluster formation is still, in essence, occurring as small groups are assimilated into the cluster core. This has implications regarding structure formation scenarios.

    Observations of galaxy rotation curves and cluster velocity dispersions suggest that M/L associated with these structures is in the range 10--500; where 500 is fairly extreme. At most, these structures then contribute 20% of the closure mass density. Hence we are driven to the following inescapable conclusion:

    Overview Slides
    The Electronic Universe Project
    e-mail: nuts@moo.uoregon.edu