ASHEVILLE, N.C. (BP) — The recent discovery of a galaxy about 65 million light years away that appears to harbor no dark matter has flabbergasted astronomers who believe galaxies need dark matter to hold them together.
“Finding a galaxy without any [dark matter] is completely unexpected; it challenges standard ideas of how galaxies work,” Allison Merritt, one of the researchers, said in a statement. A paper describing the discovery appears in the journal Nature.
Controversy surrounds the theory of dark matter in both the field of science and the Christian community. Astronomers developed the concept more than 30 years ago to explain why galaxies move and behave as though influenced by far more gravitational pull than their visible mass would exert. Cosmologists hypothesized that galaxies must contain a huge amount of unobservable mass that doesn’t emit or reflect light. In fact, they estimated dark matter accounts for 90 percent of the total matter in the universe.
But some physicists didn’t agree and developed their own theory, modified Newtonian dynamics. These physicists suggested that by tweaking Newton’s law of gravity just a bit they can account for the strange behavior of galaxies — no dark matter required.
Christians who believe in an old universe accept the theory of dark matter more readily than those who believe in a more recent creation. Many young earth creationists reject the idea of dark matter that scientists can neither observe nor prove but assign it an integral role in the Big Bang theory, which requires an old universe. But Danny Faulkner, an astronomer and editor with Answers in Genesis who believes in a recent creation, said dark matter can exist despite the inaccuracy of the Big Bang theory.
One would expect that the discovery of a galaxy without dark matter would sound a death knell for the theory of dark matter and score a win for modified Newtonian dynamics, but Faulkner insists quite the opposite is true. The fact that this galaxy’s movement conforms to what one would expect based solely on its visible mass, with no tweaking of the theory of gravity required, disproves modified Newtonian dynamics because it must hold true in every case or it isn’t true at all. And that leaves only the theory of dark matter to explain the peculiar movement of most galaxies.
If dark matter exists, Faulkner said, it tells us that a whole form of matter that we know nothing about not only exists but accounts for most of the mass of the universe: “As a creationist I find that fascinating and exciting and humbling all at the same time because God apparently has made the universe out of about 90 percent of something we haven’t even contemplated yet.”