Dark energy is swallowing up dark matter. Is the universe in trouble?

Dark matter provides the foundation on which structures grow within the universe. This means galaxies are built upon dark matter, including everything in them. A study, however, is suggesting that dark matter is evaporating, which is in turn slowing down growth in the universe.

According to a study carried out by researchers from the Universities of Portsmouth and Rome, dark matter is slowly being erased, no thanks to dark energy which is swallowing it up. Their findings are published in the Physical Review Letters journal published by the American Physical Society.

According to Professor David Wands, Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation director at Portsmouth, if dark energy is seen to be growing while dark matter diminishes, the universe might end up just a big and boring place with nearly nothing inside it.

"This study is about the fundamental properties of space-time. On a cosmic scale, this is about our Universe and its fate," he added.

Wands worked with Dr. Marco Bruni and research students Najla Said and Valentina Salvatelli from the University of Rome in Portsmouth and collaborated with Professor Alessandro Melchiorri in Rome. The researchers tested different dark energy models by examining data from different astronomical surveys and using the structural growth presented by surveys like the Sloan Digital Sky Survey.

Since the late ‘90s, astronomers were convinced that the acceleration in the expansion of the universe was brought about by an empty space that had cosmologically constant energy density. However, this simple model was not able to explain all of the data researchers have access now, which point to an expansion that is slower than expected.

University of Michigan's Professor Dragan Huterer read the study done by Wands and his colleagues, noting that other scientists must pay attention to their findings. He said that because there is very little understanding about energy, any kind of development in the field, like the one presented by the study, must be noticed. However, he is not surprised with the outcome of the study being different from earlier established models of dark energy, pointing out that there really is an issue when all data perfectly fit the simplest standard model.

Existing models in cosmology were developed in 1998 when researchers encountered a paradigm shift. Since then, it was believed that dark energy was constant throughout space-time. To this model, the study's researchers believed they had a better description of the relationship between dark matter and dark energy.

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