Project C

Dark matter content of galaxies from globular cluster kinematics

Prashin Jethwa & Laura Watkins

(email advisors)

Most of the mass in the Universe is invisible. We’ll use motions of visible objects to shed light on the darkness.

Cosmology tells us that just one quarter of the matter in the Universe is made up of regular baryonic matter. The rest is in the form of dark matter, but the nature of dark matter remains highly uncertain. One key question is how is dark matter distributed inside galaxies? We can’t see dark matter directly, but we can see its effect on visible tracer objects: in particular, it exerts a gravitational pull on objects in the galaxy. So by measuring the motions of these objects, we can work backwards and figure out the mass of dark matter that must be present for them to move in the way they do, and how the mass is distributed.

Globular clusters are ideal visible tracer objects for studying dark matter distributions in galaxies. They are compact clusters of 104-105 stars, which makes them bright enough for us to measure velocities at distances where we can no longer measure velocities of individual stars. They are found in all galaxies, including our own Milky Way.

In this project, you will apply existing mass estimator tools to globular cluster populations of galaxies in cosmological simulations. You will gain experience in data analysis using python, and an understanding of dynamical mass estimates of galaxies, the structure of the Universe, and the connection between galaxies and cosmology. We look forward to working with you!

#darkmatter  #dynamics  #globularclusters  #galaxies  #python

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