We see a lot of space photos each week and they are always beautiful and unique. But some images make you stop and ponder how stunning and strange the universe really is. Last week brought news of an odd galaxy called NGC 1052-DF2 that is 65 million light years from Earth. It’s not your usual galaxy. It’s not shaped like one, really—just a nebulous faint blob of darkness with some visible stars. Yet this one is remarkable for other reasons too. Its clusters of stars are twice as large as usually seen in galaxies, which is weird. There’s one more thing: Galaxy NGC 1052-DF2 is missing most, if not all, of its dark matter, and scientists have no idea why.
Dark matter is a big deal: While scientists are still unsure of what the stuff is—weakly interacting particles, or something else entirely—it accounts for nearly 80 percent of the total matter in the entire universe, so finding a galaxy without any is nothing short of bizarre. And astronomers can’t figure out how this galaxy could have formed without the missing matter. Modeling and calculations suggest that galaxy formation relies heavily on dark matter; as the matter clumps together over time, it grows larger, eventually attracting other material to it.
Want to keep lurking around deep space? Get lost in Wired’s cosmic collection here.