This year, Pavel Kroupa was asked to hold a Golden Webinar in Astrophysics on the dark matter problem. This contribution provides the link to the recording of this presentation which has now become available on YouTube. In this presentation, Pavel Kroupa argues that the dark matter problem has developed to become the greatest crisis in the history of science, ever. This contribution also provides links to recordings available on YouTube of previous related talks by the same speaker from 2010 (the Dark Matter Debate with Simon White in Bonn) and 2013 (in Heidelberg). This might allow some insight into how the debate and the research field have developed over the past dozen or more years.
1) Golden Webinar: “From Belief to Realism and Beauty: Given the Non-Existence of Dark Matter, how do I navigate amongst the Stars and between Galaxies?”
On April 9th, 2021, Prof. Pavel Kroupa presented a talk in the Golden Webinars in Astrophysics series on “From Belief to Realism and Beauty: Given the Non-Existence of Dark Matter, how do I navigate amongst the Stars and between Galaxies?”. The talk is now available on Youtube:
The slides to the talk without the fictitious story can be downloaded here:
If you are interested in other talks presented during The Golden Webinars in Astrophysics series, you can find the record of those already presented on their Youtube Channel, and here is a list of upcoming talks. The Golden Webinars are provided as a free public service and have no registration fees.
2) The vast polar structures around the Milky Way and Andromeda
In November 2013, Prof. Pavel Kroupa presented “The vast polar structures around the Milky Way and Andromeda” in the Heidelberg Joint Astronomical Colloquium. In the talk he discussed the failures of the Standard model of cosmology and the implications for fundamental physics.
A blog entry from 2012 on the vast polar structure (VPOS) of satellite objects around the Milky Way can be found here.
3) Bethe-Kolloquium “Dark Matter: A Debate”
In November 2010, Prof. Simon White (Max Planck Institute of Astrophysics, Garching) and Prof. Pavel Kroupa (University of Bonn) debated on the concept and existence of dark matter during the Bethe Colloquium in Bonn. Their presentations and the subsequent debate are available here:
a) Presentations by Prof. White and Prof. Kroupa
Summary of both presentations:
b) The Debate
The German-language television channel 3sat produced a TV report on the Bethe Colloquium, which can be also found on Youtube (available only in German):
In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.
Note that “true prediction” is used throughout this text to mean a prediction of some phenomenon before observations have been performed. Today, many numerical cosmologists and an increasing number of astrophysicists appear to be using a redefinition of “prediction” as simply being an adjusted calculation. Thus, the modern scientists observes data, then calculates what the cosmological model would give, adjusts the calculation to agree with the data, and then publishes this as a model prediction.
David concludes this essay with “But I hope that scientists and educators can begin creating an environment in which the next generation of cosmologists will feel comfortable exploring alternative theories of cosmology.”
In addition to the performance of a model in terms of true predictions, a model can also be judged in terms of its capability to be consistent with data. This is a line of approach of model-testing followed by me and collaborators, and essentially applies the straight-forward concept that a model is ruled out if it is significantly falsified by data. Rigor of the falsification can be tested for using very different independent tests (e.g. as already applied in Kroupa et al. 2010). We have been covering this extensively in this blog. For example, the existence of dark matter particles is falsified by applying the Chandrasekhar dynamical friction test (as explained in Kroupa 2012 and Kroupa 2015): Satellite galaxies slow down and sink to the centre of their primary galaxy because of dynamical friction on the dark matter haloes. This test has been applied by Angus et al. (2011) demonstrating lack of evidence for the slow down. The motions of the galaxies in the nearby galaxy group M81 likewise show no evidence of dynamical friction (Oehm et al. 2017). Most recently, the detailed investigation of how rapidly galactic bars rotate again disproves their slow-down by dynamical friction on the dark matter halos of their hosting galaxies, in addition to the dark-matter based models having a completely incompatible fraction of disk galaxies with bars in comparison to the observed galaxies (Roshan et al. 2021a; Roshan et al. 2021b). All these tests show dark matter to not exist. Completely unrelated and different tests based on the larger-scale matter distribution and high-redshift galaxy clusters have been performed in great detail by, respectively, Haslbauer et al. (2020) and Asencio et al. (2021). Again, each of these individually falsify the standard dark-matter based models with more than five sigma confidence.
In summary: (a) By applying the formalisms of the philosophy of science to the problem whether the dark-matter-based models or the Milgromian models are the better theories in terms of their track record in true predictions, David Merritt demonstrates the latter to be far superior. (b) By applying the model-falsification approach by calculating the significance of how the models mismatch the data, we have come to the exact same conclusion.
As alluded to by David Merritt, the frightening aspect of our times is that the vast majority of cosmological scientists seem either not capable or willing to understand this. The lectures given by the leaders of cosmological physics, as can be witnessed in the Golden Webinars in Astrophysics series, collate an excellent documentation of the current disastrous state of affairs in this community. In my Golden Webinar in Astrophysics I describe, on April 9th 2021, this situation as
because never before have there been so many ivy-league educated researchers who en masse are so completely off the track by being convinced that a wrong theory (in this case dark matter cosmology) is correct while at the same time ignoring the success of another theory (in this case Milgromian dynamics). At next-to-all institutions, students appear to be indoctrinated by the “accepted” approach, with not few students in my lectures being surprised that the data appear to tell a different story. Many students even come to class believing that elliptical galaxies are the dominant type of galaxy, thus having an entirely wrong image of the Universe in their heads than what is truly out there. Once before there was a great clash of ideas, famously epitomised by Galileo Galilei‘s struggle with the Church. But this was very different, because traditional religious beliefs collided with modern scientific notions. Today, the Great Crisis is within the scientific community, whereby scientists ought to be following the evidence rather than belief. Belief should not even be a word used by scientists, as it implies a non-factual, not logical approach. Rather than belief, we as scientists need to objectively test hypotheses which need to be clearly stated and the results of the tests must be documented in terms of significance levels.
A large number of dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster (Figure 1) appear to be disturbed, most likely due to tides from the cluster gravity. In the standard cosmological model (ΛCDM) , the observable structure of the dwarfs is barely susceptible to gravitational effects of the cluster environment, as the dwarfs are surrounded by a dark matter halo. Because of this, it is very hard to explain the observations of the perturbed Fornax dwarfs in this theory. However, these observations can be easily explained in MOND, where dwarfs are much more susceptible to tides due to their lack of protective dark matter halos and the fact that they become quasi-Newtonian as they approach the cluster center due to the external field effect.
Figure 1: Fornax galaxy cluster. The yellow crosses mark all the objects identified in the Fornax deep survey (FDS) for this region of the sky, the black circles are masks for the spikes and reflection haloes, and the red crosses mark the objects that pass the selection criteria to be included in the FDS catalog. Image taken from Venhola et al. 2018.
The impact of tides on what the dwarfs look like is illustrated in Figure 2, which shows the fraction of disturbed galaxies as a function of tidal susceptibility η in ΛCDM and MOND, with η = 1 being the theoretical limit above which the dwarf would be unstable to cluster tides. Moreover, there is a lack of diffuse galaxies (large size and low mass) towards the cluster center. This is illustrated in Figure 3, which shows how at low projected separation from the cluster center, dwarfs of any given mass cannot be too large, but larger sizes are allowed further away. Figure 3 thus shows a clear tidal edge that cannot be explained by selection effects, since the survey detection limit would be a horizontal line at 1 on this plot such that dwarfs above it cannot be detected. Diffuse dwarf galaxies are clearly detectable, but are missing close to the cluster center. Another crucial detail in Figure 3 is that dwarfs close to the tidal edge are much more likely to appear disturbed, which is better quantified in Figure 2 in the rising fraction of disturbed galaxies with tidal stability η. The tidal edge is also evident in Figure 2 in that the dwarfs only go up to some maximum value of η, which should be close to the theoretical stability limit of 1. This is roughly correct in MOND, but not in ΛCDM.
Figure 2: Fraction of disturbed galaxies for each tidal susceptibility bin in MOND (red) and ΛCDM (blue). Larger error bars in a bin indicate that it has fewer dwarfs. The bin width of the tidal susceptibility η is 0.5 in MOND and 0.1 in ΛCDM (each data point is plotted at the center of the bin). Notice the rising trend and the maximum η that arises in each theory.
Figure 3: Projected distances of Fornax dwarfs to the cluster center against the ratio Re/rmax, where Re is the dwarf radius containing half of its total stellar mass, and rmax is the maximum Re at fixed stellar mass above which the dwarf would not be detectable given the survey sensitivity. The dwarfs are classified as “disturbed” (red) “undisturbed” (blue). The black dashed line shows a clear tidal edge – at any given mass, large (diffuse) dwarfs are present only far from the cluster center. This is not a selection effect, as the survey limit is a horizontal line at 1 (though e.g. some nights could be particularly clear and allow us to discover a dwarf slightly above this).
We therefore conclude that MOND and its corresponding cosmological model νHDM (see blog post “Solving both crises in cosmology: the KBC-void and the Hubble-Tension” by Moritz Haslbauer) is capable of explaining not only the appearance of dwarf galaxies in the Fornax cluster, but also other ΛCDM problems related to clusters such as the early formation of El Gordo, a massive pair of interacting galaxy clusters. νHDM also better addresses larger scale problems such as the Hubble tension and the large local supervoid (KBC void) that probably causes it by means of enhanced structure formation in the non-local universe. These larger scale successes build on the long-standing success of MOND with galaxy rotation curves (“Hypothesis testing with gas rich galaxies”). MOND also offers a natural explanation for the Local Group satellite planes as tidal dwarf galaxies (“Modified gravity in plane sight”), and has achieved many other successes too numerous to list here (see other posts). Given all these results, the MOND framework appears better suited than the current cosmological model (ΛCDM) to solve the new astrophysical challenges that keep arising with the increase and improvement of the available astronomical data, which far surpass what was known in 1983 when MOND was first proposed.
In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.
The isolated but nearby galaxy NGC 3109 has a very high radial velocity compared to ΛCDM expectations, that is, it is moving away from the Local Group rapidly, as shown by Peebles (2017) and Banik & Zhao (2018). One of the few possible explanations within this framework is that NGC 3109 was once located within the virial radius of the Milky Way or Andromeda, before being flung out at high velocity in a three-body interaction with e.g. a massive satellite. In the new research paper “On the absence of backsplash analogues to NGC 3109 in the ΛCDM framework”, which was led by Dr. Indranil Banik, it is shown that such a backsplash galaxy is extremely unlikely within the ΛCDM framework. Basically, such galaxies cannot occur in ΛCDM because they ought to be slowed-down due to Chandrasekhar dynamical friction exerted on NGC 3109 and its own dark matter halo by the massive and extended dark matter halo of the Milky way. Making it worse, NGC 3109 is in a thin plane of five associated galaxies (the “NGC 3109 association”, rms height 53 kpc; diameter 1.2 Mpc), all of which are moving away from the Local Group (Pawlowski & McGaugh 2014), whereby the dynamical friction ought to slow down the galaxies in dependence of their dark matter halo masses. This makes its thin planar structure today unexplainable in ΛCDM.
Interestingly, the backsplash scenario is favoured by the authors (Banik et al. 2021), but in the context of MOND. In this theory, much more powerful backsplash events are possible for dwarf galaxies near the spacetime location of the past Milky Way-Andromeda flyby because in MOND galaxies do not have dark matter halos made of particles. A galaxy thus orbits through the potential of another galaxy unhindered and ballistically. The envisioned flyby could also explain the otherwise mysterious satellite galaxy planes which are found around the Milky Way and Andromeda. It now seems that the flyby may well be the only way to explain the properties of NGC 3109, since a less powerful three-body interaction is just not strong enough to affect its velocity as much as would be required. But a Milky Way-Andromeda flyby is not possible in ΛCDM as their overlapping dark matter halos would merge.
If interested, you can join the public lecture by registering here.
The talk, held via zoom, is on April 9that 11:00 Chilean Time (CLT = UTC-4), 8am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT = UTC-7),11am Eastern Daylight Time (EDT = UTC-4), 17:00 Central European Summer Time (CEST = UTC+2)
The Golden Webinars are provided as a free public service and have no registration fees. They are recorded and made available for later viewing via youtube.
In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.
This is an opportunity to recall how I personally stumbled into this whole problem concerning dark matter (see also this article on Aeon): My research up until the mid1990s was based on stellar populations, although in Heidelberg we had also measured, for the first time, the actual space velocity of the Magellanic Clouds (in 1994 and 1997). These were my first endeavours into the extragalactic arena. I had heard a fabulous lecture by Simon White who was visiting Heidelberg, showing movies of structure formation in the LCDM model they had just computed in Garching. I personally congratulated Simon for this most impressive achievement. One could see how major galaxies were orbited by many dwarf satellite galaxies and how all of that formed as the Universe evolved. I had also noted from photographs that when two gas-rich galaxies interact, they expel tidal arms in which new dwarf galaxies form. These new dwarf galaxies are referred to as tidal dwarf galaxies.
The Tadpole Galaxy recorded with the Hubble Space Telescope’s Advanced Camera for Surveys. Evident are the new dwarf galaxies in the 100 kpc long tidal tail.
In the 1990’s the community had largely discarded satellite dwarf galaxies being tidal dwarfs because it was known that they cannot have dark matter (this goes back to Barnes & Hernquist,1992, later confirmed by Wetzstein, Naab & Burkert 2007). So it was thought that tidal dwarfs just dissolve and play no important role. The observed satellite galaxies of the Milky Way have large dynamical M/L ratios, going up to 1000 or more. This proved they can contain a 1000 times more mass in dark matter than in stars and gas. So obviously they cannot be tidal dwarfs. I very clearly remember Donald Lynden-Bell exclaiming in Cambridge, when I was still visiting regularly, that his suggestion that the satellites came from a broken-up galaxy cannot thus be correct, since they contain dark matter. Then I made my discovery (truly by pure chance) published in Kroupa (1997), which made me think that what the celebrated experts are telling me seemed not to be quite right. After this publication I was told more than once this work made me un-hireable.
I had then noted (Kroupa et al. 2005), that the disk of satellites (DoS, including the newer once which Donald had not known) is in conflict with them being dark-matter substructures, as these ought to be spheroidally distributed around the Milky Way galaxy.
We argued (to my knowledge for the first time in print, in Kroupa et al. 2010 and in Kroupa 2012 ) that the disk of satellites can only be understood if they are tidal dwarfs. I had also come to the conclusion that my chance discovery above is unlikely to be able to explain the high M/L values of all the satellite galaxies as they would all need to be quite strongly affected by tidal forces which poses a problem for those further than 100 kpc from the Milky Way because their orbital periods begin to approach a Hubble time. And if they are tidal dwarfs (which they must be given they make a disk of satellites), then this implies we need non-dark-matter models, i.e. , we need to change the law of gravitation to account for the high M/L values these little galaxies display. Subsequently I was quite fevering (with PhD student Manuel Metz and later Marcel Pawlowski) each time a new satellite was discovered to see where it lay (I used to run to their offices whenever some survey reported a new satellite), and ultimately what the proper motions are doing: if the satellite galaxies form a pronounced disk of satellites then they must be orbiting only within this disk (Pawlowski & Kroupa 2013). I was (this was already in the 2000s) also interested if John Moffat’s “modified gravity” (MOG) might explain the large M/L ratios, and John Moffat visited me in Bonn. But it turns out that MOG is falsified while Milgromian gravitation (MOND) is, as far as one can tell, the at the moment only possible gravitational theory we can use which accounts for all data and tests so far performed. Oliver Mueller, Marcel Pawlowski et al. (2021) affirm that the Milky Way is not unique in having a disk of satellites system. Observing disks of satellites around larger galaxies is not a “look elsewhere effect” since the very-nearest large galaxies are looked at, rather than finding such DoSs around some host galaxy in a very large ensemble of observed galaxies. I think the disk-of-satellites or satellite-plane problem is the clearest-cut evidence why we do not have dark matter.
Plus, with all the other tests performed in strong collaboration with Indranil Banik (notably Haslbauer et al. 2019a, Haslbauer et al. 2019b, Haslbauer et al. 2020 and Asencio et al. 2021) it materialises that the tests all lead to mutually highly consistent results – we do not have the situation that one test is positive (for dark matter), the other not. They all turn out to be consistently negative. Indranil Banik concludes correctly (Feb.5th, 2021): “There are so many lines of evidence that no single one is critical any more.”
But, just like with the standard model of particle physics, there definitely is a deeper layer to MOND which we have not yet discovered; a more fundamental theory, which may well be the quantum vacuum which also explains particle masses. Milgrom had already published seminally on this issue.
The huge success of MOND comes not only in it naturally account for the data on scales of a few 100 pc to a Gpc, but also that it is a “progressive research programme“, with the standard dark-matter based models being “degenerative“. For details, see David Merritt’s book above.
In The Dark Matter Crisis by Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.
(Guest post by Dr. Jörg Dabringhausen, Charles University in Prague, Dec. 18th 2020)
The hypothesis of dark matter in galaxies was originally brought up by observations. Zwicky (1933) first found out that galaxies were usually moving too fast to stay in the observed galaxy clusters, if the luminous matter was all there is in galaxies. With “luminous matter”, essentially all stars were meant. Stars are understood well in terms of how much mass in a star leads to a certain light strength, or luminosity. But if the light emitted by the galaxies in a galaxy cluster is translated to a stellar population similar to the stellar population of the Milky Way, the stellar population would not have enough mass by a factor of a couple hundreds to keep the galaxies bound to the cluster. Thus, the galaxy clusters would have dispersed billions of years ago, and today we would be surrounded by a uniform distribution of galaxies. But that is not what we see: galaxies are still in galaxy clusters today.
But the problem was not only with galaxy clusters. Rubin & Ford (1970) found out, that the Andromeda Galaxy rotates so fast, that its stars would disperse if only the standard gravity would keep them together. And the Anromeda galaxy turned out be the rule rather than the exception; all spiral galaxies that were studied later on showed similar trends (for example Rubin et al. 1980). So, not only galaxy clusters would disperse, but also the (spiral) galaxies themselves. It is like the riders (that is the stars) on a merry-go-round (that is the galaxy). Forces keep the riders on circles around the merry-go-round, and if the forces for some reason become weaker or cease to exist (for example because the link between the rider and the merry-go-round breaks), the riders would move away from it. But again, this is against our observations: There are large spiral galaxies everywhere around us (including our Milky Way), and the stars in them move on stable orbits.
In general, the problem of missing mass in galaxies is nowadays omnipresent. It arises because there are different ways to estimate masses in astronomy. One such way is to make educated guesses about the age and the composition of the stellar population of a galaxy, and calculate from there how much units of mass it should have per unit of luminosity. Astronomers call this a stellar mass estimate. Another way is to measure the radius of a galaxy and how fast stars move on average in it, then make some educated guesses about the dynamics of the galaxy, and calculate the ratio of mass to light from there. Astronomers call this a dynamical mass estimate. Ideally, stellar and dynamical mass would agree for the same galaxy, because the galaxy only has one real mass (within uncertainties, of course). In practice however, the dynamical mass is usually larger than the stellar mass, and the factor ranges from slightly above one to 10000 or so. Apparently, the error lies somewhere in the guesswork leading to the two different mass estimates. Astronomers tried to solve the problem of the missing visible matter in two general ways: Either by adding more matter, so that the matter in total would produce the observed gravitational force, or by changing the laws of gravity themselves and saying that the visible matter is all the matter there is in galaxies.
Adding more matter is mathematically the simpler solution, which is also why many people favoured it at first. The gravitational force is then linear in the critical range of values, that is weak to moderate gravity. This means that if there is twice the matter, there is also twice the gravitational force, independent of the total amount of matter there is. Note that from this point of view, the type of matter does not matter, as long as it is invisible, or nearly so. Also the Earth is near invisible next to the Sun, even though they both consist basically of the same kind of matter (that is atoms, not something exotic). It is only a matter of temperature that makes the Sun brighter than the Earth. Indeed, there was a theory that the missing matter are earth-like bodies (that is free-floating planets and brown dwarfs), until the needed quantity of those bodies was observationally excluded. More and more alternatives for the additional matter were excluded as well, so that we are today at the Lambda-Cold-Dark-Matter Model (LCDM-model) for this class of models. However, the LCDM-model requires exotic dark matter beyond the standard model of particles. But this kind of matter has not been discovered yet, including in the largest accelerators like CERN. Nevertheless, this first group of physicists still believes the LCDM-model to be true in general (even though there are some changes to be made) and therefore they continue to search for the so far still hypothetic dark-matter particle.
The second group of physicists rather correct the law of gravity than adding a hypothetic particle beyond the standard model of particle physics. It is like whichever way you go, you have to expand a theory which has been extremely succesful so far: you either have to give up the standard model of particle physics in order to save the LCDM-model, or have to have to give up general relativity, with Newtonian gravity as its limiting case for weak and moderate gravity. This new theory of gravity is, unlike Newtonian gravity, not linear in the critial range. This means that twice the matter does not necessarily mean twice the gravity when the gravitational force is weak enough. This has a funny consequence, which is in contrast to our daily-life experience, namely that the same amount of matter suddently looks like it becomes more gravitating when you spread it out thinly enough. Lüghausen et al. (2015) therefore called it “phantom dark matter”, because this dark matter is a mirage that disappears when the real matter is put close enough together. (Of course, inside the Solar system, the matter must be on average dense enough for the gravitational force to be linear – otherwise we would not be able to send spaceships with high precision to other planets using Newtonian gravity.) This second set of theories leads to Modified Newtonian Dynamics or Milgromian Dynamics (MOND).
Here, I will concentrate on the “missing” matter of elliptical galaxies – “missing” in the sense that there is usually less matter if seen from a stellar perspective than if seen from a dynamical perspective on the same galaxy. Are there alternatives to adding exotic dark matter to the visible matter, and thus supportive to the second group of physicists?
First of all, let’s start with the question of what an elliptical galaxy is. A very short answer would be that they are more or less like the spiral galaxies, but without the disks that contain the spirals. So, only the central bulge is there, and hence, they are called ellipitical because of their elliptical shape. That central bulge can however be very massive, and the most massive elliptical galaxies are even more massive than the most massive spiral galaxies (bulge and disk of the spirals together)!
Going a bit more to the details of elliptical galaxies, they show however some diversity in their mass and radius. I will distingish them into three different kinds of objects, namely ultra-compact dwarf galaxies (UCDs), conventional elliptical galaxies (Es) and dwarf spheroidal galaxies (dSphs), and discuss the invisible matter in each of them. We will see that the invisible matter is just a mirage in some of them, while others contain really some more matter than originally accounted for, but not the exotic dark matter predicted by the LCDM-model.
UCDs (Figures 1 and 2) stand a little apart from the other elliptical galaxies, and some doubt that some of them really are galaxies, and not just very massive star clusters. The reason lies in their compactness, which makes them look much like very massive globular clusters. However, their compactness also places them deeply in the Newtonian regime, so there is literally no room for the phantom dark matter of MOND. Yet, it was claimed that they may contain dark matter (see for example by Drinkwater et al 2004 and Hasegan et al. 2005).
The reason for that is that at the turn of the millenium, it was popular among atronomers that the stellar initial mass function (IMF) is universal (see for example Kroupa 2001). What this means is that all stellar systems formed with a fixed ratio of massive stars to light stars, and only the age of the stars and their chemical composition may change from stellar system to stellar system. This is not to say that people back then were unaware of the influence that, for example, different temperatures and chemical composition had on the process of star formation. Rather, they were looking for different IMFs, but did not find supportable evidence for them in resolved stellar populations. However, when modeling a UCD (or any other kind of stellar system) with the universal IMF, there is maximum ratio between stellar mass and stellar light that can be reached for any reasonable stellar ages and chemical compositions. Nevertheless, there are many UCDs above that limit, and Dabringhausen et al. (2008) showed that this is not just a statistical uncertainty. So, there must be a reason for this unseen mass, and the exotic dark matter that comes with the LCDM-model was a proposition.
However, Murray (2009) voiced serious doubts that the LCDM-model could accomodate enough exotic dark matter inside the tiny radii of UCDs. This is even though the dark-matter halos around the galaxies can be very massive in the LCDM-model. However, the LCDM-model then also predicts that the halos would be very extended, and thus the density (that is mass per volume) of the dark-matter halo would be very thin. So, the total mass of the dark-matter halo may be gigantic, but the fraction of its mass inside a UCD would be tiny because of the small radius of the UCD, and this tiny amount of dark matter inside the UCD would not influence the internal dynamics of the UCD much. Thus, in short, it is not the exotic dark matter of the LCDM-model that increases the mass of the UCDs. It is then likely “conventional” matter, for example from a different IMF. Thus, the word “universal” IMF is then misleading because the IMF is in fact not universal, but “standard” IMF or “canonical” IMF are pretty good replacements. After all, this IMF pretty much seems to be the standard in our immediate surroundings (in an astromical sense); that is regions whose mixture of chemical elements is like that of the Sun and which do not form so many stars at present.
In UCDs, the conditions under which star formation took place were probably far away from those we know to produce the standard IMF. Thus, Dabringhausen et al. (2009) proposed that the UCDs may have formed with an IMF that had a different shape than the standard IMF, namely one that formed more massive stars. (IMFs that have more massive stars than they should have according to the standard IMF are called “top-heavy”.) These massive stars are known to be short-lived, and after they have burned all their nuclear fuel, they leave remnants which produce little or no light compared to their mass. These remnants exist of course in any aged stellar population, but if the IMF had more massive stars once, it has more stellar remnants now. The stellar remnants thus increase the ratio between mass and light, and make a UCD “darker”. Dabringhausen et al. (2012) also tried an alternative way to detect those additional stellar remnants by looking for systems, where a stellar remnant accretes matter from a companion star. Those stellar systems become distinctive X-ray sources, and are thus countable. They compared the numbers they found in UCDs to the numbers they found in globular clusters (that is stellar systems more or less like UCDs, but less massive), and they found more X-ray sources in UCDs than they expected. This as well could indicate that there are more high-mass stars per low-mass stars in UCDs. Based also on their works, Marks et al. (2012) proposed an IMF that changes with the mass of the stellar system (that is from globular clusters to UCDs) and with the chemical composition. Thus, they gave up the notion of the universal IMF, but explained changes in the ratio between mass and light in UCDs with changes in their IMFs.
Another way to increase the mass of UCDs, but not their emission of light, are central massive black holes. In a black hole so much mass is kept, that nothing that comes too close to it can escape it, not even light. Black holes are a prediction of general relativity and known to exist. For example, very massive stars become black holes when all their nuclear fuel is burned, and the pressure from stellar radiation no longer opposes the pull of gravity. Or, as another example, there is a massive black hole at the center of the Milky Way, and many other galaxies as well, even though it is less clear than for massive stars how those came to be. (This year’s Nobel Prize for physics was about the detection of this central black hole.) But if massive black holes are common at the centers of galaxies, why can’t UCDs have them as well? However, a massive central black hole is easy to overlook at the distance of known UCDs. That is because at the distance of UCDs, the stars look like they are almost located at a single point in space, whereas the mass of the central massive black hole is precisely located a this single point. Thus, if seen from Earth, there is not much difference in the distribution of matter, while the central massive black hole would still add its mass to the mass of the stellar population. Therefore, only by careful observations with the telescopes with the best optical resolution, one has a chance to detect them. Nevertheless, massive central black holes were indeed proposed as a solution for the problem of the missing mass in UCDs; for example by Mieske et al. (2013) and Janz et al. (2015). Seth et al. (2014) then observationally confirmed a massive central black hole in a UCD for the first time. Later, massive black holes were also discovered in other UCDs, see for example Afanasiev et al. (2018).
Naturally, also a mixture of non-standard IMFs and central massive black holes is possible to explain why UCDs are so massive for their light. However, what is important here is that there are less far-fetched alternatives to exotic dark matter in UCDs.
2.) Conventional elliptical galaxies
The conventional elliptical galaxies are not only usually more massive than the UCDs, but also far more extended. What I mean with “conventional” is that they were among the first galaxies to be identified as galaxies – this was in the 1920ies, when people like Hubble first discovered that some “nebulae” are not just gas clouds inside the Milky Way, but distant stellar islands just like the Milky Way. It is unclear what mass exactly is required for an elliptical galaxy in order to be coventional, perhaps 108 Solar masses or so. This unclearity is because there is an extension of elliptical galaxies to even lower masses, which are however not (compact, star-cluster-like) UCDs, but (extended, galaxy-like) dwarf Spheroidal galaxies (dSphs). However, there are some specialities on dSphs about dark matter and its seeming existence, and therefore I will treat them in an own section. What I will not do, though, is to distinguish the elliptical galaxies into dwarf elliptical galaxies and elliptical galaxies proper, because this distinction in merely historical in my eyes (see also Ferguson & Binggeli 1994 about this). The most massive of all galaxies (about 1012 Solar masses) are conventional elliptical galaxies, too.
So, how much exotic dark matter do elliptical galaxies contain, if any? Cappellari et al. (2006), for instance, found out that the conventional elliptical galaxies they observed had on average 30 percent too much mass for the IMF they assumed. They suggested that the missing mass could be the dark matter predicted by the LCDM-model. However, for this finding, they also assumed that the standard IMF is universal for all star-forming regions. Tortora et al. (2014) later tried to fix this without exotic dark matter, but MOND. They also failed with a universal IMF, but not if the IMF was changing with the mass of the galaxy. So, the real question is: Can the IMF change with galaxy mass or is the standard IMF also the universal IMF?
For answering this question, let’s look at star clusters, which are the building blocks of galaxies. Could a star cluster have a star more massive than the cluster itself? Of course not. Actually, Weidner et al. (2010) found out that the mass of the most massive star of a star cluster is much lower still. An impressive example of this was observed by Hsu et al (2012): They compared a large cluster of some mass with several adjacent small star clusters with the same mass in total. All the other parameters like age, chemical composition, and so on are the same, just how the total mass of the stars is bundled is different. However, the massive star cluster has heavier stars than the several small star clusters. This would not be a problem by itself, if the overall star formation was the same in all galaxies; that is when all galaxies form the same number of light star clusters per massive star cluster. But this is not the case. Weidner et al. (2004) found that the mass of the most massive cluster that can form in a galaxy depends on its star formation rate; that is how many stars form in a galaxy per time unit. Low-mass elliptical galaxies have low star formation rates and massive elliptical galaxies have high star formation rates. Thus, low-mass conventional elliptical galaxies have a lack of massive stars. This already is an argument against a universal IMF in all star clusters and in all galaxies.
The galaxies with the highest star formation rates (that is also the most massive galaxies) produce also star clusters in the mass range globular clusters and UCDs. Now, lets assume that these most massive star clusters are in fact UCDs and that these UCDs have IMFs with more massive stars per low-mass stars than “normal” star clusters (see the section about UCDs). Then the real IMF deviates from the once-thought universal IMF not only in low-mass star clusters (by not having any massive stars), but also in high-mass star clusters (by having too many massive stars). Now, remember what we have said about IMFs with more massive stars than the standard IMF: when they grow old, they produce less light per unit mass than the standard IMF. Or when a certain amout of light is observed, a stellar population with more massive stars and a certain age must have more mass to produce it. The stellar populations of elliptical galaxies are usually that old that the massive stars (which are short-lived) have already evolved into dark stellar remnants, and only the light stars continue to shine. So, if the IMF behaves with the star formation rate of the galaxies like it is assumed nowadays (see for example Kroupa & Weidner 2003 or Fontanot et al 2017), then the low-mass elliptical galaxies have a little less mass than assumed with the standard IMF for their light, and the massive elliptical have a little more mass than assumed with the standard IMF. This goes up to about twice the mass for the most massive conventional elliptical galaxies, and the point where the mass estimate is equal to that for the standard IMF is at approximately 109 Solar masses. Thus, for most conventional elliptical galaxies, the mass estimates are above the mass estimates for the standard IMF, and the “missing” mass is about the mass detected by Cappellari based on the standard IMF. (See also Dabringhausen et al. 2016 if you want to follow the brightness of elliptical galaxies with their mass, and Dabringhausen 2019 if you wish to go deeper on elliptical galaxies and non-standard IMFs). Thus, again like with UCDs, there is an alternative, more down-to-earth explanation for the excess mass of those elliptical galaxies.
3.) Dwarf speroidal galaxies (dSphs)
Dwarf spheriodal galaxies (dSphs, Figure 3) are in a way the low mass extension to “conventional” elliptical galaxies, because in a plot of their radius against their mass, they continue the line established by the conventional elliptical galaxies to lower masses. However, the brightest ones are in light and mass like UCDs, but way more extended than UCDs. In other words, there is a gap in radius between dSphs and UCDs (see Gilmore et. al 2007), in contrast to conventional elliptical galaxies and dSphs.
If it is true that dSphs are in fact very low-mass conventional elliptical galaxies, then we would expect them to be about 20 percent or so lighter than expected based on their light with a standard IMF. But in fact, they are way more massive. Just in order get a feeling for the numbers we are dealing with: Let’s say the standard IMF would predict a ratio of mass to light of 2 for a dSph, the ratio for the corrected IMF would then give 1.5, but the measured value is 2000 (all numbers are in Solar units). So, how can we be wrong to a factor up to approximately 1000 (even though in many cases less)?
This is where MOND finally kicks in, because the visible matter in dSphs is actually thin enough, in contrast to UCDs and Es. MOND can rise the ratio of the mass of a dSph over its light from values of a few (that is a stellar population in Newtonian dynamics) to values up to about 100. This fits the dynamical values of many dSphs, which would contain plenty of “dark” matter in Newtonian dynamics. Thus, in MOND, their dark matter is actually phantom dark matter – it would disappear if the matter was denser. Or, in other words, the difference between stellar and dynamical mass estimates disappears for those dSphs, and all is well. The precise value for a given dSph depends on which value the mass-to-light ratio of the stellar population would have according Newtonian dynamics and on how many stars are distributed over which volume, that is the density of visible matter. Estimates for the mass-to-light ratios in Newtonian and MONDian dynamics for a number of dSphs are for example given in Dabringhausen el al. (2016).
But it is also visible in Dabringhausen el al. (2016) that even MONDian dynamics cannot explain the mass-to-light ratios of the few dSphs, which have a mass-to-light ratio far beyond 100. So, have we finally found a failure of MOND? Not necessarily. So far, we have implicitly always assumed that the galaxies are in virial equilibrium. What this means is for instance the absence of tides because of other distracting souces of gravity. The tides on Earth are the best-known example, even though Earth is dense enough to be near tidal equilibrium, given the gravitational forces from the Moon and the Sun. We only see them so well because because in this case, the tides are happening right under our noses. Ultimately, there are tides on Earth because the Earth is an extended body. Thus, the gravitational force from the Moon pull on the near side of the Earth a bit stronger than on the far side, and the Earth is being stretched a bit by the tides. There are ebb and flow of the oceans on Earth, because the Earth also rotates, while the tides are always directed towards the Moon. There of course also other sources of gravity on Earth which cause tides (the Sun for instance), but the Moon is the strongest.
Also UCDs and conventional elliptical galaxies are dense enough to be nearly unaffected by neighboring galaxies, which are the potential reason for tides in them. But the internal gravity is comparatively weak on the thin matter of dSphs, so that they are easy to stretch by outside forces of other galaxies. Thus, the tidal forces form gigantic tidal “waves” consisting of stars. Every encounter with another galaxy pulls on the galaxy, because the gravitational force is stronger on the near side of the encounter than on the far side. This heats the galaxy up, meaning that the galaxy is being pulled out of virial equilibrium by the encounter and that the average velocities of the stars get faster with enconters. Finally, the tidal forces from encounters with other galaxies make the galaxy break apart.
Now, what would an observer from Earth see? The observer could for example see a dSph that has been heated up by a recent encounter with another galaxy, and is thus out of virial equilibrium. Or the dSph has found its virial equilibrium again, but at the cost of stars which have left the dSph, and are now moving faster or slower than the stars which are still bound to the galaxy. But the observer could be ignorant of this fact, and assume that all the stars (s)he sees are bound to the galaxy. Or the dSph has dissolved already completely, but the stars still move all along on similar orbits, even though they are not bound to each other any more. The radius in which the stars are is then just much larger than it would be, if the stars were bound to each other. If the observer then wrongly assumes the dSph to be in virial equilibrium, all these effects increase the dynamical mass estimate (not the real mass!) (s)he makes for the mass of the galaxy. And those effects could indeed raise the dynamical mass estimate by the required factor. For a discussion of tidal heating of dSphs under Newtonian gravity, see for example Kroupa (1997). McGaugh and Wolf (2010) made a similar study with MOND. Notably, they found for observed dSphs surrounding the Milky Way that if a dSph is more susceptible to tidal forces, it is also more likely to be outside virial equilibrium for MOND. For an interesting theoretical discussion of how a dissolving star cluster in a tidal field could be mistaken for a much more massive (but evidently not more luminous) dSph, see Dominguez et al. (2016).
However, the dSphs which are out of virial equilibrium far enough to increase the dynamically estimated mass-to-light ratio by a few or more compared to the real mass could just be a few dSphs out of a larger sample. For the majority, the effect would simply be too weak now, although their time to dissolve will also come. In other words, this scenario is highly improbable if gravity was Newtonian, because then all dSphs around the Milky Way must be in dissolution. However, if gravity is MONDian, only a few would be near their dissolution, while most would be in or near virial equilibrium – see Dabringhausen el al. (2016).
There is also another argument against dark matter in dSphs. Galaxies are usually not by themselves, but surrounded by other galaxies. Together, these galaxies form gravitationally bound galaxy clusters. But how do these galaxy clusters form? According to the LCDM-model, this happens by the infall of galaxies from all directions. They can come, the dSphs included, with any amount of exotic dark matter into a galaxy cluster. We will call those galaxies “primordial galaxies” from now on, because there is also another way to form galaxies that look like dSphs to an observer. This other way is through close encounters of already existing galaxies. In such encounters, matter is pulled away from the existing galaxies by gravity though tides (Figures 4 and 5), and new small galaxies can form from this matter. We know that this process happens. Otherwise, the elongated streaks of matter of, for instance, the Antennae Galaxies and the Tadpole Galaxy would be difficult to explain. Simulations of interacting galaxies, which are set up to reproduce situations like in the Antennae Galaxies, show also those streaks of matter like the ones observed (see for example Bournaud & Duc 2006 or Wetzstein et al. 2007). They are called tidal tails for obvious reasons. The Tadpole Galaxy even has a new small star-forming regions in its tidal tail, which may become dSphs. If aged enough, these dwarf galaxies may be difficult to distinguish from primordial galaxies of the same mass, though (see Dabringhausen & Kroupa 2013). However, in the following, we call galaxies of tidal origin “tidal dwarf galaxies”, in order to distinguish them from primordial galaxies. The tidal dwarf galaxies cannot contain the exotic dark matter of the LCDM-model, even if their progenitor galaxies did. The reason is that all matter that ends up in a tidal dwarf galaxy, whether visible or not, must have occupied similar regions of space with similar velocities also before the encounter of the existing galaxies. The total amount of the exotic dark matter may be huge, but most dark matter had other velocities and other locations, and therefore does not qualify to be bound to the tidal dwarf galaxy. After all, simulations of galaxy encounters by, for example, Barnes & Hernquist (1992) show that most visible matter that is to become a tidal dwarf galaxy comes from the disks of spiral galaxies. This visible matter does not only form a thin disk, as opposed to the presumed dark matter halo, but it also moves with the same velocity in the same direction, again in contrast to the presumed dark matter halo. Also, the tidal dwarf galaxies that form in an encounter of galaxies can only move in the plane of the encounter (because of the conservation of angular momentum). Thus, there is an easy way to distinguish the dSphs in the LCDM-model: those which move in a plane and those which cannot be assigned to a plane. Those in a plane are very likely tidal dwarf galaxies and cannot have any exotic dark matter. Those, however, which cannot be assigned to a plane might also be primordial and can thus contain dark matter (see for example Kroupa et al 2010). Now, what do observations tell us about the pattern of motion of the dSphs? In the Milky Way, it was shown by Lynden-Bell (1976) and by Kroupa et al. (2005) that the then known dSphs are most likely arranged in a plane. Later, additional objects and also velocities were added, but the long-lasting disk of Satellites was always confirmed (see for example Pawlowski et al. 2012 and Pawlowski & Kroupa 2020). This was according to some proponents of the LCDM-model just an exception, while other, they said more normal galaxies would have dSphs with random motions around them. However, it was shown then that also the Andromeda Galaxy has a disk of dSphs around it (for example Ibata et al 2013), and Centaurus A as well (Mueller et al 2018). In short, disks of satellites around major galaxies are more the rule than the exception, see for example Ibata et al (2014) for an attempt of a census. Thus, galaxies in these planes must manage their high dynamical mass-to-light ratios without exotic dark matter, despite numerous claims to the contrary from the LCDM-community. If MOND is the correct description of gravitation, then the large gravitating (phantom) masses of the satellite galaxies, as opposed to their small masses in stars, is beautifully resolved.
I have discussed the reasons for “dark” matter in elliptical galaxies, which comes ultimately from the comparison of different mass estimates. Also, some assumptions which were used for the lack of better knowledge have been proven wrong by now. This concerns the theory of a universal IMF in all star-forming regions, which was leading to a mismatch between the mass estimates from stellar populations and from the dynamics in UCDs and conventional elliptical galaxies. If the “one-size-fits-all” IMF is replaced by a more elaborate picture of the IMF, those differences disappear easily without using exotic dark matter or MOND. For dSphs, the situation is different. They cannot have exotic dark matter because it could not bind to them, but neither can their extreme mass-to-light ratios be explained with different stellar populations. Here, MOND and tidal fields offer an answer. Thus, adding more exotic dark matter to all galaxies until their dynamics is fitted might appear the simpler solution on first sight, but it is not necessarily the correct one. The seemingly more complicated solution without exotic dark matter stands a better test result here.
In The Dark Matter Crisis by Joerg Dabringhausen. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.
In case you, like me, have missed Pavel Kroups’s recent talk at the Joint Astronomical Colloquium in Heidelberg, you now have the opportunity to watch a movie of the event and download the slides. The movie is quite long (more than an hour), but it is worth watching it to the end. While the talk is titled “The vast polar structures around the Milky Way and Andromeda”, Pavel talks about much more, starting with tidal dwarf galaxies and ending with a discussion of indications for an alternative model of gravity.
This presentation is very similar and in most parts identical to Pavel’s presentations held at Monterey at the conference “Probes of Dark Matter on Galaxy Scales” and in Durham at the “Ripples in the Cosmos” conference. The latter talk resulted in quite a discussion on Peter Coles’ (aka Telescoper) blog “In the Dark”, following his criticism of Pavel’s talk as being “poorly argued and full of grossly exaggerated claims”. The video of a very similar presentation now offers everybody the opportunity to develop their own opinion on the issue. Given the numerous questions Pavel got during his talk and afterwards, people must have thought that it was worth the effort to argue with him, in contrast to Peter’s opinion.
There has been an unsuccessful attempt to close down The Dark Matter Crisis. Here is the story (and an email by Jim Peebles): UPDATE: The guest post is now online.
As regular readers of our blog know, and first-time readers may be able to guess from this blog name, Pavel and I mostly write about the problems and shortcomings of the dark matter hypothesis. One aspect of our research is to test dark matter models on cosmologically small scales such as the Local Group of galaxies. Over the past years, our research and those of others has revealed that numerous model expectations of the dark matter hypothesis are not met by observations. This led us to the conclusion that we should consider a paradigm shift in how we understand the dark matter phenomenon. Maybe, we thought, a modification of the laws of gravity, one possible approach being Mordehai Milgrom’sMOdified Newtonian Gravity (MOND), could solve these issues.
Doing research that identifies shortcomings in a widely-held assumption and that is skeptical of a mainstream hypothesis is certainly a very interesting and rewarding endeavor for a scientist. It is closely connected to the fundamental scientific method of falsification and holds potential for groundbreaking discoveries. However, working on a controversial scientific topic also has its downsides. For one, papers criticizing basic assumptions are less attractive to be cited in mainstream publications. And before publication, controversial science already faces a more challenging peer-review process. For example Ashutosh Jogalekar explains in his blog The Curious Wavefunction:
“[…] reviewers under the convenient cloak of anonymity can use the system to settle scores, old boys’ clubs can conspire to prevent research from seeing the light of day, and established orthodox reviewers and editors can potentially squelch speculative, groundbreaking work.”
In addition to these ‘formal’ scientific interactions via academic publishers, there is also communication amongst scientists. For instance, early PhD students, who are still in the process of learning about the business of doing science, may be looking for advice from mentors and other more experienced scientists. Unfortunately, when the talk comes to controversial areas of science, students are often discouraged from getting involved in non-mainstream research (note, however, Avi Loeb‘s opposite advice). This begins with the commonly expressed belief that such research might “hurt your career”, but sometimes even more direct warnings are made. For example, a few years ago a professor told me that he would never hire someone who has published even a paper on MOND. A fellow PhD student got a similar piece of “advice” while visiting a different university, where one scientist advised him that he should only publish results which are negative for MOND, but nothing in support of it.
For people who are just starting in science, especially, such comments may be alarming. Graduate students do not yet know much about the job market. They therefore tend to believe what the ‘old boys’ tell them. To researchers who have a bit more experience, such warnings are often incomprehensible since they know by then (if they didn’t already initially) that it is entirely unscientific to withhold research results that do not fit a pre-determined picture.
The difficulties of working in a controversial field of research do not stop here. Communicating such science to a wider audience can also result in problems. While the public is generally very interested in the challenges faced by prevailing theories, there are difficulties to overcome. One of them is the question of how to differentiate completely unscientific things (the paranormal, creationism, …), from actual, albeit controversial, science.
A promising approach to overcome this difficulty is to discuss controversial science publicly. This way, the public can follow and be part of the debate, learn that arguments are backed by references to peer-reviewed research and see that hypotheses need to be tested through comparison with observational data—essentially the public gets to view the scientific process as it is applied in any branch of research. By demonstrating that scientists stick to facts, respond to opposing arguments and do not resort to emotionally driven rhetoric, we can adequately demonstrate the strengths of science.
The strength of the scientific method over dogmatic beliefs should always prevail in order to be able to contemplate the possibility of paradigm shifts. This is indeed a complex idea to explain, and presenting research results as absolute truth is something scientists should be prepared not to do. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sometimes, some people profess the ideas they subscribe to as the scientific or absolute truth. Such claims of absolute truth completely contort the nature of science. It is certainly going too far when science bloggers, in an attempt to protect their preferred mainstream theory, demand that a scientists’ blog be closed because their views differ. Scientists who publish their research in scientific journals, who go through the peer-review process and who in the end publish slightly unorthodox but nonetheless valuable ideas, should not be censored from the science blogosphere.
Unfortunately, this is what happened to our blog, The Dark Matter Crisis.
A popular science blogger demanded that SciLogs.com discontinue our blog and has, for a short time, succeeded. We would like to use this occurrence as an example of the reactions and difficulties faced when doing online communication of controversial science topics. The incident demonstrates why debate in science must be based on objective facts and not be driven by personal opinions. It illustrates the dangers of mixing scientific convictions with personal goals and emotions.
Why we started the Dark Matter Crisis blog
In late 2009, Pavel and I wrote an invited article for the German popular science magazine Spektrum der Wissenschaft about dwarf galaxies as tests of cosmology. During the process, Spektrum asked us to also start an accompanying science blog on SciLogs.eu, to provide a place for discussions that might arise due to the controversial nature of our work. We were very hesitant initially, but after talking to students and colleagues we agreed to start a blog. What convinced us to blog was the possibility to get in touch with readers, which would allow immediate feedback and discussions, and the ability to continuously provide current information about our active field of research. When the Spektrum article was published in July 2010, the blog The Dark Matter Crisis went online, too. We blogged on it for about two years, and then agreed to move The Dark Matter Crisis to the new SciLogs.com network. The first article on the SciLogs.com blog was published on January 3, 2013.
The discontinuation of The Dark Matter Crisis
On January 28, we received an email from the SciLogs.com community manager. The email informed us that our blog had been discontinued and that we would no longer be able to update it, although the blog’s archive would remain on the site. The short explanation provided was that the “thesis pushed by The Dark Matter Crisis is now overwhelmingly considered incorrect by the scientific community and as such cannot be considered sound enough to be promulgated by SciLogs.com”.
As we blog mostly about our own and related research, such a justification not only attacks our blogging but also hits at the very heart of our scientific work. Consequently, the first reaction to this email was shock, quickly followed by many questions. Which “theses pushed” by our blog “is now overwhelmingly considered incorrect”? That the currently prevailing hypothesis of cold dark matter has serious problems? This certainly is not considered overwhelmingly incorrect, as there are many scientists working on addressing these problems, both within the framework of standard cosmology (e.g. Mutch et al. 2013, Fouquet et al. 2012), as well as by modifying it (e.g. Lovell et al. 2012, Macció et al. 2012) or even by taking a completely different approach (e.g. Famaey & McGaugh 2012). Also, we were invited to start the blog because of the controversial nature of this topic.
Furthermore, at the time of discontinuation, the SciLogs.com version of The Dark Matter Crisis had only one blog post thus far. The sole post presents the recent discovery of a co-rotating plane of satellite galaxies around Andromeda reported in Ibata et al. (2013, Nature). It discusses possible implications which are right now actively debated among scientists. In fact, that blog post was, as far as I can tell, the only one on the web to provide a detailed explanation as to why the Nature paper might be a threat to Einstein’s theory of gravitation, which was explicitly alluded to by numerous publications, but explained by none (most articles in classical media focussed on the 15-year-old co-author of the study). Surely, it is not the aim of SciLogs.com, as a service to provide information to the public, to censor a blog that was communicating science to the public. Therefore, we concluded that this blog post could not have been the reason for the discontinuation.
But even expanding the scope to the old SciLogs.eu blog, we cannot see where we push a thesis which is not scientifically sound. Our blog posts are full of references to peer-reviewed publications. While we often discuss non-mainstream interpretations, we always remain within the realm of science and discuss an active field of research. For example, we frequently mention alternatives to dark matter which try to explain the missing mass phenomenon by non-Newtonian gravity laws. As an active scientist in this field, one can certainly not say that this is not scientifically sound and “overwhelmingly considered incorrect”. Just looking at the number of citations to the first paper about MOND by Milgrom, shows a citation count that has been constantly rising over the last few years and is currently at 1066.
So, what might have triggered the decision to discontinue our blog?
What Who has triggered our blog’s discontinuation?
Digging around on Twitter revealed several interesting discussions which were obviously related to the discontinuation of The Dark Matter Crisis. It turns out that a former-scientist-turned-blogger, who had spent a few years doing research in cosmology (publishing 5 first-author papers with now 88 citations), demanded the discontinuation.
The blogger (@StartsWithABang) contacted @scilogscom on January 24 by replying to a 15-day old tweet that announced our blog’s move to the new domain. He tweeted “Bummed that @scilogscom is in the business of promoting contrarian scientist viewpoints.”, and asks the SciLogs.com community manager (@notscientific) “[Why] are you allowing @scilogscom to promote contrarian voices that undermine public understanding of [science]?”, adding “You have taken on “Dark Matter Crisis” blog, whose mission is to undermine all of physical cosmology & promote MOND.”
By now the SciLogs.com community manager has explained to us what happened after these tweets. He and the publishing director responsible for SciLogs.com unfortunately assumed that the blogger’s criticism was justified. They decided to close our blog without conferring with others or asking us for a statement. After we complained about the discontinuation, they performed an internal investigation, which involved reaching out to astrophysicists and other people, and have realized that discontinuing our blog was a big mistake. We attribute SciLogs.com’s poor judgement to two factors: neither the community manager nor the publishing director has an (astro)physical background, it was the first time that SciLogs.com had experienced an attack against one of its blogs.
So, the result was that four days after the tweets about The Dark Matter Crisis were posted, our blog was discontinued. Interestingly, only a few hours later the blogger who complained about our blog tweeted: “Shout out to the @SciLogscom team, esp. @notscientific and @laurawheelers, for stepping up & vetting their #science blogs for quality!”. (@laurawheelers was not involved in the decision to discontinue our blog. She only referred @StartsWithABang to SciLogs.com’s community manager.) @StartsWithABang added “They are storing the archives, but the blog is inactive and will not be continued”. While until then this situation was only an example of one blogger attacking our blog and our research with contorted accusations, the reactions of a few other Twitter users were disheartening. Some of them, science communicators and even an active astronomer, welcomed the blog’s discontinuation. One would have hoped that they would see the value of our science blog, regardless of their ownopinions on the controversial topic we blog about.
Some slightly earlier attacks
The incident seems to be related to a recently published paper by us: Kroupa, Pawlowski & Milgrom (2012). When the paper appeared on the preprint server arXiv on January 18, this lead to a short discussion on Twitter, during which the same blogger who would later led to the short-timed discontinuation of our blog, made some pretty harsh accusations against “the MOND zealots”, whom he seems to call a mix of skeptics and liars and deniers who trot out misinformation and undermine confidence in science. In reaction to our paper, he published a blog post in which he claims to rule out MOND with one graph. Unfortunately, his blog post does not address any of the issues discussed in our recent paper, nor does it address those discussed in many other papers over the recent years.
In reaction to the accusations and contorted depiction of our research, I submitted a comment to the blog post. It asks for a clarification of the accusations and tries to start an objective discussion. There was no reason to censor it. Nevertheless, the comment was not published the first time, so I submitted it again the following day. Again, it was not published. I then decided to ignore the issue and the blogger in the future, as a factual debate seemed to be undesired and emotion-laden quarreling on the web is a waste of time. However, as our blog was actively attacked only a few days later by that very same blogger, the comment is being published here for transparency:
“When I understand your Twitter tweets from yesterday correctly, you think that “Kroupa and some of the other MOND zealots” are, at least to a certain extend, liars and deniers who “trot out misinformation & undermine confidence in science”. Is this what you were saying or did I misunderstand something? My honest opinion is that this would be unnecessarily aggressive, insulting, unprofessional and unscientific as it does not help to establish a well-founded discussion of the scientific issues.
The fact that you do not address the numerous problems of LCDM, many of which are mentioned in the recent paper, does not help shaping a discussion. In your blog post, you base your argumentation on only one problem of MOND: the the strong oscillations in the matter power spectrum. However, according to e.g. Famaey & McGaugh (2012), this problem is not as clear-cut as you claim. They write: “the non-linearity of MOND can lead to mode mixing that washes out the initially strong signal by z = 0”, and even suggests a more robust test.
More fundamentally, basic logic tells us that falsifying one hypothesis does not provide information about the validity of an opposing one. Just to give an example: Disproving that the world is a disk does not prove that the guy who is claiming that the earth is donut-shaped is right. As it turns out, the earth is neither a disk nor a donut, but essentially a sphere. Nevertheless, you jump from this graph to a conclusion about “MOND, MOG, TeVeS, or any other dark-matter-free alternative”. In addition, if you would consider the numerous failures of the LCDM model in a similar way like those of MOND, according to your argumentation we would have to give up on both, modified gravity theories and dark matter.
As a last note, I’d like to point out that in our recent paper we do not present MOND as the final answer. The fact that there is not a single “MOND”, but many different attempts to construct a full theory of modified gravity (see Sect. 6) already demonstrates that more work needs to be done. But in order to search for a solution of the many problems LCDM has on scales of many Mpc and below (where MOND is very successful), scientists should be encouraged to investigate this possibility. That is what a paradigm shift is, in my opinion: acknowledging that there are problems and being open-minded for new or alternative explanations, without hiding the problems that these alternatives may themselves face. As we acknowledge in the paper, mass discrepancies in galaxy clusters and building a consistent cosmology are real challenges for MOND, but there exist more or less convincing answers to these problems in the various effective covariant theories that have been proposed to date (see e.g. the list of theories in Famaey & McGaugh 2012 and their Section 9.2). Even if most of these tentative new explanations will turn out to be unsuccessful, I am sure there still is much to learn about the Universe. We have made this clear in the final sentences of our paper, too: “Understanding the deeper physical meaning of MOND remains a challenging aim. It involves the realistic likelihood that a major new insight into gravitation will emerge, which would have significant implications for our understanding of space, time and matter.”
So, I don’t think there is any lying, denying or misinformation involved on part of us as active scientists. It is just that the Universe is a hard nut to crack. Having the strength to admit that none of the current models are the final answer should in fact increase our confidence in science.”
It is ironic that in a comment on this very blog post, the blogger suggests to a critical reader that if he does not like his way of blogging, the reader could get his own blog. Only a few days later the blogger seems to have worked towards the discontinuation of our blog …
The aftermath and an upcoming guest post
After being informed about the discontinuation and after having discovered the background story on Twitter, we got in touch with the staff responsible for SciLogs.com. As mentioned before, they quickly realized that the discontinuation of The Dark Matter Crisis was a mistake. After discussing the issue with Richard Zinken, the publishing director of Spektrum der Wissenschaft (who is also responsible for the SciLogs.com blog network), he and the community manager apologized for the incident. We have accepted the apology and understand that mistakes can happen. During the last weeks, we worked together with the SciLogs.com team, thinking about what would be the best way to re-open the blog and how to handle the recent events in a constructive way. Together with Richard and the community manager we developed this blog post on the difficulties faced when communicating controversial research.
Together, we also decided to invite a guest blogger to The Dark Matter Crisis, preferably a cosmologist who is skeptical about our views. We hope that this helps to shape the debate and keep it at a scientific level, in contrast to the seemingly emotionally driven attacks which misshape the public’s view of how science handles controversial research. We have asked a few colleagues for such posts, and are content that one experienced scientist has agreed to act as our guest blogger. We know that he is well-respected in the field. His guest post will go online tomorrow.
UPDATE (March 09 2013): In a recent blog post, supposedly trying to shut off people working on dark matter alternatives forever, the blogger attacking us wrote: “Courtesy of Scott Dodelson, I present to you the one graph that incontrovertibly settles the matter.” We now rather offer you a guest blog post on that matter by … Scott Dodelson.
In the meantime, Jim Peebles, Albert Einstein Professor Emeritus of Science at Princeton University, gave us his explicit permission to publish the full, unedited email in which he explains that he would not like to be our guest blogger. We would like to thank him for this and, given our recent experience, fully understand that he prefers to not start blogging:
Sorry for the delay. I have been thinking about your email, and have decided that I will not contribute a commentary on your situation.
I agree with many of your points. The behavior of [SciLogs.com] is silly; this is not the way of science. As you indicate, the community is remarkably optimistic about galaxy formation within the standard LCDM cosmology. I consider this an example of the human herd instinct. With you I distrust talk of precision cosmology; we are still seeking an accurate cosmology. But I think we differ on the weight of evidence for LCDM. I am deeply impressed by the variety of independent lines of evidence that point to LCDM, and conclude that the case for LCDM as a useful approximation to reality on the scale of the Hubble length is about a good as one gets in physical science. No one can prove that there is not another cosmology without dark matter that fits the data as well as LCDM, and no one can prove that there is not another theory that works as well as quantum mechanics. I expect we both put the odds on the latter as too low to matter. I feel close to the same about the former.
You are entirely entitled to take the approach I see in your blog, but I do not want to state my opinion on your blog. I don’t want to take up [blogging] anywhere!
In addition, you can have a look at a recent article in New Scientist: “Dark matter rival boosted by dwarf galaxies”. The article mentions James Binney, from the University of Oxford, who says that he “believes that some sort of MOND-like behaviour may manifest itself on small scales”, while Avi Loeb, of Harvard University, being skeptical about MOND, nevertheless states that: “The theory deserves a lot of respect.”
We believe that all astronomers, whether skeptical or not of our controversial research, are able to agree with Loeb’s statement, and it is in this spirit that we would like to continue our endeavours in online science communication.
By Marcel S. Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa (08.03.2013): “The Dark Matter Crisis continues: on the difficulties of communicating controversial science” on SciLogs. See the overview of topics in The Dark Matter Crisis.
Dwarf galaxies, that is galaxies less massive than a few billion solar masses, are expected to be formed through two processes. They might either be the luminous components of small dark matter halos, formed early in the universe when gas fell into the potential well of those halos. These dwarf galaxies are called primordial dwarf galaxies (PDGs) and are expected to be dominated by their dark matter content.
The other formation mechanism is a process observed even in the present-day universe. When two major disk galaxies collide, the gas and the stars in the disks are expelled by tidal forces induced by the encounter to large distances. An example for a very prominent structure that has been created through tidal interactions between disk galaxies is the ‘tail’ that extends to the upper right corner in the figure below. Within this tidal debris, new objects of dwarf galaxy mass form. This is why dwarf galaxies of this second type are called tidal dwarf galaxies, or TDGs.
Thus, TDGs form from the baryonic material in the galactic disks of the progenitor galaxies, but can they also contain dark matter? Even in a disk galaxy with a massive dark matter halo, the vast majority of the dark matter would be located outside the galaxy’s disks. Of the small amount of dark matter within the disk, only a tiny fraction would furthermore be moving in the same direction and would have the same velocity as the stars and the gas in the disks. The vast majority of the dark matter would therefore have different initial conditions regarding its location and motion than the gas and the stars. But during a galaxy collision, only material with similar initial conditions is thrown on similar trajectories by the tidal forces and has a chance of becoming bound to the gravitational field of a forming TDG. The vast majority of the dark matter, having different initial conditions, will therefore be thrown onto different trajectories. While the dark matter on such different trajectories may be able to cross the shallow gravitational field of a TDG, it would do so at a high relative velocity. Therefore, this dark matter cannot become bound to the TDG. As an analogy for an encounter between a TDG and a chunk of dark matter, consider two spaceships orbiting a planet. Even if they orbit the planet at the same altitude, they can only rendezvous if they follow each other on the same orbit. For all other possible choices of orbits (say one is flying to the south and the other is flying to the west), the spaceships would fly past each other quickly if they do not crash.
In summary, it is one of the major characteristics of TDGs that they cannot contain much dark matter, even if their progenitor galaxies did (e.g Bournaud 2010).
If the standard model of cold dark matter is correct, there should be a co-existence of these two types of dwarf galaxies in the universe: dark-matter dominated PDGs and TDGs without significant dark matter content. This is the Dual Dwarf Galaxy Theorem (Kroupa 2012).As they would have very different compositions, the two types should fall into two easily distinguishable groups. The natural question to ask in order to test this prediction is:
Are there really two distinct populations of dwarf galaxies in the universe?
This is investigated in the article “Dwarf elliptical galaxies as ancient tidal dwarf galaxies” by Dabringhausen & Kroupa (2013). The principle of their study is simple: they just had to compare the observed properties of old dwarf galaxies with known tidal dwarf galaxies. For the comparison, they use two properties, which are easy to determine observationally. These properties are:
The stellar mass, i.e. only the mass in stars, without the mass in gas, dust or dark matter. It can be determined from the luminosity of the system (more stars = brighter object).
The projected half-light radius, which is a measure of how extended the system is.
There are extensive catalogs listing these two properties for so-called pressure-supported systems, i.e. systems of stars in which the stars move on chaotic orbits (in contrast to the ordered rotation of disc galaxies). The following plot shows these data points.
Credit: Dabringhausen & Kroupa (2013)
These objects include globular clusters (GCs), ultra-compact dwarf galaxies (UCDs), massive elliptical galaxies (nEs), and dwarf elliptical galaxies (dEs). The first two types of objects (green points) appear to be free of dark matter, while the second two (red points) are generally assumed to sit in dark matter halos. The study of Dabringhausen & Kroupa is particularly interested in the dEs, as these are in the mass- and size-range of observed TDGs, but are generally assumed to be PDGs.
Adding Tidal Dwarf Galaxies
For a meaningful comparison, the properties of these dEs have to be compared with those of known TDGs. To be confident that an object is a TDG, it has to be associated with interacting galaxies (another possibility is to look at numerical simulations of galaxy collisions and extract the properties of TDGs formed in those models). However, this gives rise to a complication: TDGs associated with a pair of interacting galaxies are young, many of them are still forming some stars and such young TDGs can contain a lot of gas. The dEs, in contrast, are old systems without gas. So the observed properties of the young TDGs have to be aged before they can be compared to the dEs. As the TDGs age, they will loose their gas. The paper lists three possible processes:
The gas is converted into stars.
The gas is removed because the feedback of massive stars in the TDG heat it.
Because those gas-removal processes happen slowly, their major effect on the TDG properties is an increase of the system’s half-light radius: as (gas) mass is lost, the TDG will be less bound and the distribution of stars will expand. This allowed Dabringhausen & Kroupa (2013) to estimate where aged TDGs would show up in the figure:
Credit: Dabringhausen & Kroupa 2013
The TDGs (blue symbols) fit in quite nicely with the dEs. The lower points on the error bars represent the TDG properties as observed, i.e. still young. Their radii are a lower limit: the TDGs cannot shrink as they slowly loose their gas. The upper end of the error bars assumes that most of the TDG’s mass, 75% to be precise, has been lost. This coincides nicely with the upper end of the dE distribution, too. There is in principle no reason why a TDG couldn’t loose even more of its initial mass, but such TDGs are likely to be destroyed very easily (see further below).
So, the TDGs and the dEs populate the same region in the figure. What does this tell us?
Due to their different composition (PDGs being dark matter dominated, TDGs being dark matter free), one would expect to observe two distinguishable groups of dwarf galaxies. The opposite is found: dEs populate only one region in the plot, and the same region is covered by (aged) TDGs. Consequently, this suggests that the observed dEs are in fact old TDGs. But then there is no room for primordial, dark matter-dominated dwarf galaxies.
This finding is also consistent with the expected numbers of TDGs in the universe. Numerical simulations of close encounters between possible progenitor galaxies show that on average one or two long-lived, massive TDGs are created per such encounter (see Bournaud & Duc 2006). By considering the total number of encounters between possible progenitor galaxies until the present day, Okazaki & Taniguchi (2000) found that such a rate of TDG-production would already be enough to account for all dEs in the Universe.
The black lines in the second plot give another hint at a connection between dEs and TDGs. Because TDGs are formed by colliding galaxies, many of the TDGs will end up as satellite galaxies. When such satellites orbit around a much more massive host galaxy, they will be affected by tidal forces. If the satellite is too extended, its own gravity is not strong enough to keep it bound against the tidal forces of the host. The exact radius depends on the masses of the host and the satellite, as well as the satellite’s orbit. The black lines in the plot give an impression of the tidal radius of satellite galaxies, assuming they orbit at a typical satellite distance of 100 kpc around different host galaxies. For the lowermost line, the host is assumed to be heavy, while the uppermost line corresponds to a rather light host. Above a given line, a satellite of a galaxy with the corresponding mass is not stable anymore, but will be disrupted by tidal forces. So if a TDG loses so much mass that it expands above this line, it will be destroyed and vanish from the plot. Thus, if the dEs are indeed TDGs, the position and slope of the cutoff at large half-light radii is easily explained.
The results of Dabringhausen & Kroupa (2013), if confirmed by future studies, suggest that there is only one type of dwarf galaxies in the Universe. Virtually every galaxy that is classified as an old dwarf galaxy, i.e. a dE, would be an aged TDG which originated from the debris of interacting galaxies. We emphasize also that TDGs have been shown to lie on the baryonic Tully-Fisher Relation (Gentile et al. 2007), which they cannot if this relation is defined by dark matter. These results are very problematic for cold dark-matter based models, which predict that in addition to TDGs a plethora of primordial dwarf galaxies with a completely different composition exists as a second group of dwarf galaxies. However, the result of Dabringhausen & Kroupa (2013) fits in nicely with the peculiarities of the Milky Way (e.g. Pawlowski et al. 2012) and Andromeda (Ibata et al. 2013) satellite galaxies: they co-orbit within thin planes, which is expected for a population of TDGs. But again this distribution is at odds with the predicted distributions of primordial galaxies.
When it comes to their properties and distribution, tidal dwarf galaxies seem to develop a lead over dark-matter dominated, primordial dwarf galaxies.
By Marcel S. Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa (07.03.2013): “Are there two types of dwarf galaxies in the universe?” on SciLogs. See the overview of topics in The Dark Matter Crisis.