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Mysterious invisible walls may have been discovered in outer space

Published May 11th, 2022 8:42PM EDT
Image: ESA/Hubble & NASA, D. Rosario Acknowledgement: L. Shatz

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Scientists suspect that a “fifth force” may be at work in space. This force, which they believe is mediated by a hypothetical particle called a symmetron is responsible for creating invisible walls in space.

The walls aren’t necessarily like the walls of a room. Instead, they are more like barriers. And, they could help explain an intriguing part of space that has left astronomers scratching their heads for quite a while.

New study could explain “invisible walls in space” that have perplexed astronomers for years

An image of the Southern Pinwheel Galaxy as captured by the DECam. Image source: NOIRLab

The Lambda cold dark matter (ΛCDM) model is the current standard model we use to explain cosmology. However, there’s been one perplexing challenge to this model, and sometimes it just doesn’t add up.

According to that model, small galaxies should be distributed in messy orbits around larger galaxies. However, most small galaxies orbiting larger galaxies are arranged in thin flat planes. These planes, or disks, look similar to the rings of Saturn. Almost as if there is some invisible wall in space that the galaxies arrange along.

These “satellites” as astronomers often refer to them, can be found in synced-up orbits throughout our own galaxy. Astronomers have also observed them in neighboring galaxies, too. Over the years, scientists have proposed many possible explanations to solve the “satellite disk problem.”

However, this new study from researchers at the University of Nottingham presents a different type of explanation for these invisible walls in space. The study is currently available via the preprint server arXiv.

A new physics explanation

hubble photo
The star cluster NGC 1805 as imaged by the Hubble Space Telescope. Image source: ESA/Hubble & NASA, J. Kalirai

The researchers posit that their research points towards a first potential “new physics” explanation that doesn’t do away with dark matter completely. Dark matter makes up most of the mass in the universe and has proven to be one of the universe’s biggest mysteries. As such, it’s been an important part of these kinds of studies.

Unlike past studies into the issue, this new research suggests that hypothetical particles called symmetrons could generate invisible walls in space. Astronomers call these walls “domain walls” and they are what hold the galaxies in their refined orbits. Instead of the galaxies orbiting in a messy pattern, as the ΛCDM model suggests it should.

The researchers also say there is a 50/50 chance that different regions will adopt different values for its symmetrons. This could explain the differences that some larger galaxies have in the smaller galaxies that orbit them.

Of course, this is just a proof of concept. If we’re going to prove that there are invisible walls in space, we’re going to need to prove symmetrons exist. That’s where space instruments like the James Webb telescope come into play. As they observe parts of the early universe, they could teach us more about these new particles and the organization they bring to the universe.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.