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One long-standing explanation for this mystery, known as the direct-collapse theory, hypothesizes that ancient black holes somehow got big without the benefit of a supernova stage. Now a pair of researchers at Western University in Ontario, Canada—Shantanu Basu and Arpan Das—have found some of the first solid observational evidence for the theory. As they described late last month in The Astrophysical Journal Letters , they did it by looking at quasars.

'Fuzzy' dark matter theory simulated fully for the first time

Quasars are supermassive black holes that continuously suck in, or accrete, large amounts of matter; they get a special name because the stuff falling into them emits bright radiation, making them easier to observe than many other kinds of black holes. The distribution of their masses—how many are bigger, how many are smaller, and how many are in between—is the main indicator of how they formed. After analyzing that information, Basu and Das proposed that the supermassive black holes might have arisen from a chain reaction.

Each time one of the nascent black holes accreted matter, it would radiate energy, which would heat up neighboring gas clouds.

A hot gas cloud collapses more easily than a cold one; with each big meal, the black hole would emit more energy, heating up other gas clouds, and so on. Such a scenario would imply that dark matter cannot clump much in our solar system, or else the solar system would be much hotter. Still, Siegel thinks, as the solar system plows through the galaxy, it could be accreting additional dark matter. As of now, the existence of any dark matter in the solar system remains as mysterious as its presence everywhere else.

Paparazzi Physics Physicists are so eager for any new data about dark matter that some will literally snap at anything.

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Earlier this year rumors abounded that the latest results from the PAMELA satellite mission, launched in , revealed dark matter interactions with normal matter. But the researchers in charge of the mission did not share their findings beyond flashes of slides at conferences. Cirelli notes he did so with permission from the speaker there. So far Cirelli and others have released more than half a dozen online papers referencing the slides. Some scientists condemned the paparazzi physics, fearing it might jeopardize journal publication of the data; some defended it because the data was obtained thanks to public funding.

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Mystery of the Universe's Missing Matter Finally Solved by Scientists

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