Scientists Say: Dark matter

No one has seen or detected this kind of matter, but scientists think it’s there

dark matter

This is a colorized image of the dark matter, galaxies and hot gas created as a bunch of galaxies move toward each other. What scientists think is the dark matter has been colored blue.

NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis) and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)

Dark matter (noun, “DARK MA-ter”)

Most of the stuff in the universe that occupies space and has mass is not matter we can detect. It’s dark matter — a physical object or particle that appears to emit no radiation. Scientists aren’t completely sure dark matter exists. But they know something in the universe is affecting visible objects with its gravity. They’ve given that something the name dark matter.

Scientists estimate that normal matter — stars, planets and other objects we can detect, including ourselves and everything else on Earth — makes up only 5 percent of the universe. Dark matter makes up 27 percent. The rest is a mysterious force called dark energy.

In a sentence

An Earth-orbiting telescope has picked up a new X-ray signal that might be a sign of decaying dark matter. 

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Bethany Brookshire was a longtime staff writer at Science News Explores and is the author of the book Pests: How Humans Create Animal Villains. She has a Ph.D. in physiology and pharmacology and likes to write about neuroscience, biology, climate and more. She thinks Porgs are an invasive species.

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