A crucial component of the big bang creation model that the Bible uniquely predicted thousands of years ago1 is the existence of a lot of cold dark matter. Cold dark matter refers to the matter in the universe that is comprised of massive particles that either interact very weakly with light—that is, photons—or not at all. These particles contrast with baryonic matter, which is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons that possess the property of strongly interacting with light.
Because of how strongly protons, neutrons, and electrons interact with light, any large concentration of these particles that is not collapsed into a black hole will continuously emit light. Stars, gaseous nebulae, and brown dwarfs are well-known examples. For cold dark matter particles, on the other hand, it does not matter how large a concentration one has, they will not continuously emit light.
In big bang cosmology, for the universe to possibly sustain physical life it must contain about 5–6 times as much cold dark matter as it does baryonic matter. However, because astronomers have not been able to “see” cold dark matter, some atheist scholars and nearly all young-earth creationists have claimed that the big bang creation model is in trouble,2 albeit for very different theological motivations. As we will see in a few paragraphs, a breakthrough discovery promises to deliver evidence that should settle such questions for fair-minded people.
Gravitational Detections of Cold Dark Matter
Although astronomers have yet to see any light being emitted from cosmic cold dark matter, they have no doubt about its existence. They detect cold dark matter through its gravitational influences. For example, general relativity, which now ranks as the most exhaustively tested and best-proven principle or theory in all of physics,3 predicts that clumps of mass, whether it be baryonic or cold dark matter, will bend light. The larger the concentration of mass, the greater the degree of light bending.
Figure 1 below shows an image of a gravitational lens where the mass of a foreground giant red galaxy bent light from a much more distant blue galaxy almost directly behind the giant red galaxy in the same manner that an optical lens bends light. The measured degree of light bending falls far short from what would be generated by the measured amount of baryonic matter in the cluster of galaxies. The remainder of the bending, therefore, must come from matter in the cluster that does not interact at all, or hardly at all, with light.
Figure 1: The Gravitational Lens LRG 3-757. Image credit: ESA/Hubble/NASA
Another way astronomers can detect the gravitational influence of cold dark matter is by observing the gravitational interactions of galaxies with one another inside a large cluster of galaxies. The observed gravitational interactions again fall far short of what would be expected if only baryonic matter existed. Figure 2 below shows a map of the distribution of cold dark matter in the galaxy cluster ACT-CL J0102-4915 that was determined from careful measurements of the dynamics (movements) of galaxies in the cluster with respect to each other.
Figure 2: Distribution of Cold Dark Matter in the Giant Galaxy Cluster ACT-CL J0102-4915 (El Gordo). The blue-colored overlay shows where the concentrations of cold dark matter exist in the galaxy cluster. Image credit: NASA/ESA/UC Riverside (J. Jee)
The method that produces the most accurate determination of the quantity of cold dark matter in the universe comes from maps of the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event coupled with multiple independent observational tools for measuring the spatial curvature (geometry) of the universe. The dynamics of galaxies and galaxy clusters, surveys of the structure of galaxies and galaxy clusters, and maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation (the radiation left over from the cosmic creation event) establish that the geometry of the universe is flat to within 0.05%4 and that the universe is comprised of 4.7% baryonic matter, 24.6% cold dark matter, and 70.7% dark energy.5
Signals from Cold Dark Matter Particles
Astronomers possess several other methods for detecting and measuring the quantities of cold dark matter that yield results consistent with the three described above. While the extent and the consistency of these measurements remove any reasonable doubt about the existence of cold dark matter and the degree to which it dominates baryonic matter, astronomers have yet to detect the signals that physicists expect would arise from the fundamental particles that comprise cold dark matter. However, thanks to results reported in a recent paper published in Physical Review D, astronomers may have made or may be on the verge of making such a discovery.
In the paper, a team of five astronomers led by Joseph Conlon announced the detection of a 3.5 kiloelectron-volt feature in the soft x-ray spectra of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster (featured image). This energy spike (emission line) is consistent with a dark matter origin. Conlon’s team detected the feature in the Perseus Galaxy Cluster in all three of the x-ray telescopes they used: Hitomi, XMM-Newton, and Chandra. They were able to achieve consistency among the measurements from all three telescopes with a model in which cold dark matter absorbs and then reemits the 3.5 kiloelectron-volt photons that were first emitted from the central active galactic nuclei by the largest galaxies in the Perseus Galaxy Cluster.
Before the Nobel Prize in physics can be awarded to Conlon and his team, they will need to confirm their discovery with measurements on other galaxy clusters and preferably individual galaxies. It also would be helpful if they could obtain detailed enough measurements that they could identify the cold dark matter particles responsible for absorption and reemission. Nonetheless, they have made a landmark discovery that should remove any residual doubts about the reality of cold dark matter and its theological implications that a Creator beyond space and time brought our universe into existence and exquisitely fashioned it to provide a home for physical life and human beings in particular. Thanks to powerful telescopes, the heavens are shouting the glory of God more loudly than ever before.