Guide A Matter of Dark

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Unlike normal matter, dark matter does not interact with the electromagnetic force.

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This means it does not absorb, reflect or emit light, making it extremely hard to spot. In fact, researchers have been able to infer the existence of dark matter only from the gravitational effect it seems to have on visible matter. But what is dark matter?

One idea is that it could contain "supersymmetric particles" — hypothesized particles that are partners to those already known in the Standard Model. Many theories say the dark matter particles would be light enough to be produced at the LHC.

If they were created at the LHC, they would escape through the detectors unnoticed. In the past, the Universe was smaller and denser, meaning the matter densities were much higher.

Dark matter particles won’t kill you. If they could, they would have already

To the best of our ability, it appears that dark energy has an absolutely constant energy density. It could change over time, so long as it changes within some observational constraints.

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Unlike Dark Energy, the Dark matter must have existed from practically the very beginning. The pattern of fluctuations we see in the background radiation is the earliest evidence we have for dark matter in our Universe, dating from approximately , years after the Big Bang.

What is dark matter?

Most interestingly, already imprinted in that pattern of peaks-and-valleys is that critical 5-to-1 ratio with normal matter. Dark matter has not only been providing the seeds of structure, which causes more and more dark matter to fall into the over-dense regions and be lost from the under-dense regions but has been doing so since the earliest stages in the Universe. Dark matter could have been created from the very moment inflation ended; it could have been created from high-energy interactions that took place immediately afterward; it could even have arisen from particles at Grand Unifying Theory energy scales sometime much later.

But from the measurements of the large-scale structure of the Universe, including the signatures imprinted in the earliest picture of all, we can be absolutely certain that dark matter arose in the very early stages of the Big Bang, and possibly at the very beginning of it all.

Dark energy 101

Dark energy may have been around the whole time, or it may have only emerged much later. The more astronomers observed the Universe, the more matter they needed to find to explain it all.

Dark Energy, Dark Matter | Science Mission Directorate

This matter could not be made of normal atoms, however, otherwise there would be more stars and galaxies to be seen. At the same time, physicists trying to further the understanding of the forces of nature were starting to believe that new and exotic particles of matter must be abundant in the Universe. These would hardly ever interact with normal matter and many now believe that these particles are the dark matter.