62. Mailing list for the MOND community

(Guest post by Indranil Banik, November 22nd, 2021)

In the following guest post by Dr. Indranil Banik (past AvH Fellow in the SPODYR group at Bonn University and now at the St.Andrews University), we would like to promote a mailing list for the MOND community and anybody who is interested in this research field.

Following a request, I have set up a mailing list for the MOND community and anybody who wants to stay updated about our work. The idea is that if someone wants to advertise an upcoming talk or an article they have recently posted but they are at an early career stage and do not know everyone in the MOND community, they can just send an email to the mailing list. Also if some discussions between more senior researchers take place through this list, then any early career researchers signed up to it will be included in the conversation even if nobody thought explicitly to include them in the conversation. Regardless of whether you are signed up, you can send an email to the mailing list and everyone on it should receive the message.

The email address is: mondworkers@gmail.com

Please contact Elena Asencio if you want to sign up to this mailing list and thus receive the emails sent to it, she will be in charge of sending an invitation link which you need to accept in order to complete the sign up: s6elena@uni-bonn.de

We think it is not appropriate to send such invitation links to people who have not requested it, as such a request would take only a little time and we would not ask for any reasons for why you want to sign up.
At the moment, only a very small number of emails have been sent to the mailing list because I have only recently set it up. I envisage that it would not be used all that often for a while, and slowly catch on as more people know about it. Obviously it is not suitable for a great many emails as the sender might only want specific people to see it rather than the whole mailing list. But there are times when people want their email to gain extra visibility, and that is what this is about.

Please advertise this to especially early career researchers, it is intended for sharing adverts for upcoming talks, notifying others of articles and blogs, and discussing research ideas you want to share. In general, it is for anything you want to share with everyone on the list, including I suppose asking for advice. It is important that the more senior researchers working on MOND are signed up to it so that early career researchers who want to e.g. advertise a talk or get advice about a project manage to contact everyone on the list without knowing all their names and email addresses. In principle, a fair amount of customisation is possible with the filters that are used, and different filters can be used for different people on the list. At the moment, the only filtering in place is to prevent administrative emails being sent to everyone on the list. Requests to modify filters can be considered, and of course you can be removed from the mailing list if you ask. Thank you to those of you who have already signed up.

61. The crisis in the dark matter problem becomes a historically unparalleled failure in the scientific method

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):

Part I

Part II


In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.

59. Are “darker psychological mechanisms” at work ?

(by Pavel Kroupa)

Two related essays have been published by aeon :

1) David Merritt wrote an essay for aeon with the title “A non-Standard model”. It is a very short version of his prize-winning Cambridge Universe Press book “A philosophical approach to MOND” and addresses the problem the cosmological scientist is faced with when needing to reach a conclusion as to the merit of a theory, given the data

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.

On the one hand side there is the standard dark matter based model which never made a successful true prediction (in the sense of pre-data) but is believed widely in the community to be true,

while on the other hand side Milgromian dynamics has made many successful true predictions of new phenomena but is deplored by the community.

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

the greatest scientific crisis in history ever,

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.

2) And the reader of this blog would probably also be interested in the very related earlier aeon essay by myself on Has dogma derailed the scientific search for dark matter?.


In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.

58. The tidal stability of Fornax cluster dwarf galaxies in Newtonian and Milgromian dynamics

(Guest post by Indranil Banik and Elena Asencio, August 2nd, 2021)

A directly-related presentation by Elena Asencio is available here:

The tidal stability of Fornax cluster dwarf galaxies in Newtonian and Milgromian gravity

The slides of the presentation can be downloaded here:

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.

57. A splash too far: “On the absence of backsplash analogues to NGC 3109 in the ΛCDM framework”

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.

In a series of Tweets, the co-author Dr. Marcel Pawlowski briefly explains on his Twitter account @8minutesold the main results of this recent publication:

Source: https://twitter.com/8minutesold/status/1392430171240677376

Source: https://twitter.com/8minutesold/status/1392430171240677376


In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.

55. “A Philosophical Approach to MOND” wins prestigious award

It is with delight we learned today that David Merritt’s book on “A Philosophical Approach to MOND” published by Cambridge University Press won the Prose Award for Excellence in Physical Sciences and Mathematics. Other authors also competing for this price were Peebles and Weinberg. 

I had written a review of this book which can be read here.

Note also that in 2013 David published a noteworthy text book on “Dynamics and Evolution of Galactic Nuclei” (with Princeton Series in Astrophysics).


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. 
 
The (negative) test for the existence of dark matter particles (warm, cold, fuzzy) via Chandrasekhar dynamical friction is the other (Kroupa 2015).
 
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.”
 
I am personally deeply impressed how everything seems to fall into place (quite nearly everything) once one uses MOND (which is based on a Lagrangian etc.).  Apart from completely naturally resolving the Hubble Tension and easily accounting for massive high-redshift galaxy clusters like El Gordo (see also this account on Triton Station), the DoSs or satellite planes form naturally (as shown independently by Banik et al. 2018 and by Bilek et al. 2018) and these tidal tail dwarf galaxies have large M/L values due to the correct law of gravitation (e.g. this amazing prediction by McGaugh 2016 of the velocities of stars in one of the satellite galaxies and verification thereof by Caldwell et al. 2017).
 
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.

52. Solving both crises in cosmology: the KBC-void and the Hubble-Tension

(by Moritz Haslbauer, 20th Nov. 2020, 18:00)

A directly-related presentation by Moritz Haslbauer and Indranil Banik on the KBC-void and the Hubble tension in the ΛCDM model and Milgromian dynamics can found on the Youtube Channel “Cosmology Talks” by Shaun Hotchkiss: Maybe Milgromian gravity solves the Hubble tension!? – The KBC void & νHDM model (Haslbauer & Banik)

The Universe evolves through expansion and gravitation of matter, which leads to some regions having more galaxies and others having fewer. These variations directly reflect the way in which gravity has created structures out of initial density fluctuations over the last 14 billion years. Thus, the observed spatial arrangement of galaxies on scales ranging from 100 kpc to a Gpc is a very powerful test of different cosmological models and gravitational theories.

In our paper “The KBC void and Hubble tension contradict ΛCDM on a Gpc scale − Milgromian dynamics as a possible solution” (Moritz Haslbauer, Indranil Banik, Pavel Kroupa 2020), we tested if the observed spatial arrangement of galaxies on a Gpc scale can be explained by the standard model (Lambda-Cold Dark Matter, ΛCDM) of cosmology. We also tested if a Milgromian dynamics (MOND) model works.

Several surveys covering the entire electromagnetic spectrum (ranging from radio to X-rays) made an exciting discovery: we are in a Gpc-sized region of the Universe containing far fewer galaxies than ought to be in this volume if ΛCDM were correct.

For example, Karachentsev 2012 found a significant lack of galaxies within a sphere of radius 50 Mpc centered on the Local Group. He reported that the average mass density is a factor of 3-4 lower than predicted by the standard model of cosmology. In 2013, Keenan, Barger, and Cowie discovered that the local Universe is underdense on a much larger scale by counting galaxies at near-infrared wavelengths. They found evidence for an incredibly huge void (hereafter the KBC void) with a density about two times lower than the cosmic mean density and with a radius of about one billion light years (or 300 Mpc). This is about 2% of the distance to the observable Universe’s horizon (about 14 Gpc). The KBC void is shown in Figure 1 below.

Figure 1. The KBC void: the actual density of normal matter divided by the mean cosmological density is plotted in dependence of the distance from the position of the Sun (which is in the Local Group of galaxies). The grey area indicates the density fluctuations allowed by the ΛCDM model. Taken from fig. 1 in Kroupa (2015).

The results by KBC are striking because the ΛCDM model predicts root-mean-square (rms) density fluctuations of only 0.032, while the observed value is 0.46 with an uncertainty of 0.06. This drew our attention, so we decided to investigate the local matter field further in both the ΛCDM and MOND paradigms.

First, we started to quantify the likelihood of a KBC-like void in the ΛCDM model. Using one of the largest cosmological ΛCDM simulations (called MXXL), we rigorously confirmed our suspicion: Einsteinian/Newtonian gravity is simply too weak to form such deep and extended underdensities like the KBC void. Our calculations showed that the KBC void alone falsifies ΛCDM with a significance much higher than the typical threshold used to claim a discovery, e.g. with the famous Higgs boson. Consequently, the KBC void is totally inconsistent with the current standard model, implying that the observed Universe is much more structured and organized than predicted by ΛCDM. A similar conclusion was reached by Peebles & Nusser 2010 on much smaller scales by studying the galaxy distribution within the Local Volume, a sphere with 8 Mpc radius centred on the Local Group. And the whole Local Group is also “grievously” structured (Pawlowski, Kroupa, Jerjen 2013), showing a “frightening symmetry” as called by Pavel Kroupa.

The implications of the observed local density contrast on a Gpc scale are far-reaching, because so far it was widely understood that the ΛCDM paradigm provides a very successful description on this scale. Given the many failures of ΛCDM on galaxy scales (e.g. Kormendy et al. 2010 , Kroupa et al. 2010, Kroupa 2012, Kroupa 2015, Pawlowski et al. 2015), the ΛCDM model now faces significant problems across all astronomical scales. A compilation of failures, many of which have reached the 5sigma confidence threshold of ΛCDM failure, can be found in the previous contribution to the Dark Matter Crisis.

The observed spatial arrangement of galaxies on scales ranging from 100 kpc (the satellite planes) to 300 Mpc (our work) strongly suggests that structure formation is much more efficient than possible by Newton’s gravitational law, implying a long-range enhancement to gravity over that allowed by Newtonian gravity. This is in fact not surprising, given that Newton and Einstein both only had Solar System data at their disposal to formulate their theories; gravitation is after all, the least understood of the fundamental interactions. Consequently, we next studied the formation of structures in Milgromian dynamics, which was developed by Israeli physicist Mordehai Milgrom in 1983 (Milgrom 1983). MOND is a corrected version of Newtonian gravitation taking into account galaxy data which were non-existing for Newton and for Einstein. MOND successfully predicted many galaxy scaling relations, but has rarely been applied to cosmological scales.

We extrapolated the MOND model from galactic to a Gpc scale by applying the Angus 2009 cosmological MOND model. This Angus cosmological model has a standard expansion history, primordial abundances of light elements, and fluctuations in the cosmic microwave background (CMB), mainly because both the ΛCDM and MOND cosmology have the same mass-energy budget. However, instead of cold dark matter particles, the MOND model assumes fast-moving collisionless matter, most plausibly in the form of 11eV/c^2 sterile neutrinos. The existence of sterile neutrinos is motivated by particle physics, since they could explain why the ordinary neutrinos have mass. The low mass of hypothetical sterile neutrinos means they would clump on large scales (e.g. galaxy clusters), but not in galaxies, thus leaving their rotation curves unaffected. The following is in fact a most important point to emphasize: The Angus cosmological model needs extra fast moving matter which comes from standard particle physics (but still needs to be verified experimentally). This is very different to the ΛCDM model which needs dark matter particles that account for the observed rotation curves in disk galaxies but which are not motivated to exist by the standard model of particle physics.

The enhanced growth of structure in Milgromian gravitation generates much larger and deeper voids than in Einsteinian/Newtonian gravity. This leads to the formation of KBC-like voids as shown in our paper. Such an extended and deep underdensity causes an interesting effect: parts of the Universe beyond the void with more galaxies pull galaxies in the void outwards. This changes the motions of galaxies, making the local Universe appear to expand faster than it actually is. The situation is illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Illustration of the Universe’s large scale structure. The darker regions are voids, and the bright dots represent galaxies. The yellow star represents the position of our Sun. Note that the Sun is not at the centre of the KBC void. The arrows show how gravity from surrounding denser regions pulls outwards on galaxies in a void. If we were living in such a void, the Universe would appear to expand faster locally than it does on average. This could explain the Hubble tension. Interestingly, a large local void is evident in the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Credit: Technology Review

Indeed, local observations of how quickly the Universe is expanding exceed the prediction of ΛCDM by about 9%. This so-called Hubble tension is one of the greatest mysteries in contemporary cosmology. In our paper we showed that the unexpectedly high locally measured Hubble constant is just a logical consequence of enhanced structure formation in MOND, and us residing within a particularly deep and large void. This Hubble bubble scenario is however not consistent with ΛCDM because it does not allow for a sufficiently extreme void (Figure 3).

Figure 3: In our paper we showed that that the KBC void cannot form out of the initial conditions of the CMB at redshift z = 1100 if Einsteinian/Newtonian gravity is assumed. Adding the speculative cold dark matter does not help. Therefore, the Hubble tension cannot be explained by the KBC void in the context of the ΛCDM paradigm. Consequently, we aimed to study the formation of structures in Milgromian dynamics. The long-range enhancement to gravity in MOND allows the formation of KBC-like voids, which simultaneously explains the high locally measured Hubble constant.

Thus, the current hot debate among astronomers about the expansion of the Universe being different close to us than far away only exists because astronomers are using the wrong model. A universe which does not have exotic cold dark matter particles but runs on Milgromian gravitation ends up looking just like the real Universe, at least with the tests done thus far.

There is now a real prospect of obtaining a MOND theory of cosmology that explains the data from dwarf galaxies up to the largest structures in the Universe much better than the ΛCDM framework. Consequently, the here described cosmological MOND framework could be a way out of the current crisis in cosmology.

Given my affiliation with Charles University, I have been travelling to Prague and beyond frequently and now the CORONA Pandemic has stopped this flying about the planet — I have already written about the first wave and my getting marooned on a beautiful island next to the Strand. Being this time stranded in Bonn without a Strand during the second wave, I have a little more time on my hands I guess. So here we are, back to the Crisis.

In The Dark Matter Crisis by Moritz Haslbauer, Marcel Pawlowski and Pavel Kroupa. A listing of contents of all contributions is available here.

44. Dark Matter in the innermost regions of the Milky Way?

Spiral galaxies rotate too fast. If they would only consist of the visible (baryonic) mass we observe in them and Newton’s Law of gravity is correct, then they would not be stable and should quickly fly apart. That they don’t has been one of the first indications that the galaxies (and the Universe as a whole) either contains large amounts of additional but invisible “dark matter”, or that the laws of gravity don’t hold on the scales of galaxies. One possibility for the latter, Modified Newtonian Dynamics (MOND), proposes that gravity needs to be stronger in the low acceleration regime present in galaxies (for more details see the extensive review by Famaey & McGaugh 2012 and Milgrom’s Scholarpedia article). That the rotation curve (i.e. the function of circular velocity of the galactic disc with radius) of our Milky Way galaxy follows the same trend as the rotation curves of other spiral galaxies has been known for a long time, too. So it appears to be a bit surprising that the Nature Physics study “Evidence for dark matter in the inner Milky Way” by Fabio Iocco, Miguel Pato and Gianfranco Bertone makes such a splash in the international press. That the MW should contain dark matter is not news, but nevertheless the paper got a huge amount of press coverage.

Milky Way rotation curve in MOND

Rotation curve of the Milky Way: Observed velocities (squares), baryons + Newtonian Dynamics (black line) and MOND rotation curve (magenta line).

One thing emphasized a lot by the press articles (and press releases) is that the authors claim to have found proof for the presence of dark matter in the ‘core‘, ‘innermost region‘, or even ‘heart of our Galaxy1, not just in the intermediate and outer regions. This might be worrisome for modified gravity theories like MOND, which predict that regions very close to the center of the Milky Way should be in the classical Newtonian regime, i.e. the rotation curve should be consistent with that predicted by applying Newton’s law to the observed mass distribution. The underlying reason is that due to the higher density of baryonic matter in the center of the Milky Way the gravitational acceleration of the baryons there already exceeds the low-acceleration limit. But only once the acceleration drops below a certain threshold the non-Newtonian gravity effect kicks in. Interpreted naively (i.e. assuming Newtonian dynamics), this would mimic dark matter appearing only beyond a certain radial distance from the Galactic Center.

Without even going into the details of checking their assumed Milky Way models, the way the observational data is combined and whether there are systematic effects, a simple look at figure 2 in Iocco et al. already reveals that their strong claim unfortunately is not as well substantiated as I would wish.

wc_fit

The plot’s upper panel is what is of interest here. It shows the angular circular velocity in the Milky Way disk versus the Galactocentric radius. The red points with error bars are observed data for different tracers. The grey band is the range of velocities allowed for the range of baryonic mass distributions in the Milky Way considered by Iocco et al. (that are all consistent with observations). If there would be only baryonic matter and Newtonian Dynamics, the rotation curve of the Milky Way should lie somewhere in this area.

First of all, the figure shows that they did not consider any data in the region within 2.5 kpc. That makes sense because that region will be dominated by the bar and bulge of the Milky Way. Stars in the bulge don’t follow circular orbits, so one can’t measure circular velocities there.

So, what is the core, heart or ‘innermost region’ of the Milky Way? Lets try to come up with something motivated by the structure of our Galaxy. The Galactic disk is often modeled by an exponential profile, with a scale length of about 2.2 kpc. What if we say the core of the MW is everything within one scale length? Immediately there’s a problem with the claim by Iocco: They are not even testing data on this scale.

Lets ignore the phrase ‘core’ or ‘heart’ of the Milky Way and focus on the more general formulation they also use in their paper’s title: “Evidence for dark matter in the inner Milky Way”. Looking at their Figure again, we can see that the data start to leave the grey band at a distance of about 6 kpc from the MW center. Thus, within 6 kpc (almost three scale radii of the Milky Way disk!) the purely baryonic models encompass the data. Consequently, here is no need to postulate that dark matter contributes significantly to the dynamics. The figure clearly shows that there is no need, and therefore no evidence for dark matter within 6 kpc of the Galactic Center, which is as generous a definition of ‘inner Milky Way’ as it gets in my opinion. The authors themselves even write that ‘The discrepancy between observations and the expected contribution from baryons is evident above Galactocentric radii of 6-7 kpc’. In this regard it doesn’t matter whether the majority of the possible baryonic models predict a lower rotation curve: as long as the data agree with at least one baryonic model that is consistent with the observed distribution of mass in the Milky Way, there can not be evidence for dark matter.

I really don’t understand why they then claim to have found proof of dark matter in the innermost regions of the Milky Way. My suspicion is that the authors and their press releases seem to have a (literally) quite broad interpretation of the term ‘innermost region’. Judging from the context, they seem to subsume everything within the solar circle of ~ 8 kpc (the distance of the Sun from the Galactic Center) as ‘innermost’. I don’t think it is an appropriate definition, after all it makes the vast majority of the baryonic mass of the Milky Way part of the innermost region. Half the light of an exponential disk is already contained within less than 1.7 scale length (1.7 x 2.2 kpc = 3.7 kpc for the Milky Way), and all of the bulge/bar is in there, too. But if we nevertheless roll with it for the moment we can see that yes, between 7 and 8 kpc there seems to be need for dark matter … or for a MOND-like effect.

Milky Way rotation curve in MOND

Rotation curve of the Milky Way: Observed velocities (squares), baryons + Newtonian Dynamics (black line) and MOND rotation curve (magenta line).

So, lets have a look at one MOND rotation curve constructed for the Milky Way (from McGaugh 2008) to see where we expect to find a difference in Newtonian and MONDian circular velocities. The expected Newtonian rotation curve is shown as a black line in the plot, equivalent to the purely baryonic rotation curves making up the grey band in the figure of Iocco et al.. The rotation curve predicted by MOND is shown as a magenta line and the observed circular velocities are the small squares.

The plot immediately reveals that a discrepancy between the Newtonian and the MONDian rotation curves is expected already at small radii, well within 6 kpc. The findings of Iocco et al. that there appears to be some mass missing within the solar circle therefore do not disagree with the MONDian expectation, in contrast to what one of the authors is quoted saying in a Spektrum article. Furthermore, the plot demonstrates that the need for dark matter (or MOND) in the region inside the solar circle was already well known before this new study.

So, in summary, the study doesn’t show all that much new or surprising, the claimed ‘evidence’ for dark matter in the innermost Milky Way is not present in their data (unless you define ‘innermost’ very generously) and some apparent dark matter contribution within the solar circle is not even unexpected based on MOND predictions.

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1: The press releases of the TU Munich and Stockholm University even call it a ‘direct observational proof of the presence of dark matter in the innermost part our Galaxy’ (which is clearly wrong, there is obviously nothing direct about it and the innermost part would imply the very center of the Milky Way).

See the overview of topics in The Dark Matter Crisis.