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Astrophysicist has a discovery of the decade

Douglas Clowe's confirmation of dark matter's existence makes Discovery News' top ten list
Jan 5, 2010
By Colleen Kiphart

Discovery News has ranked Assistant Professor Douglas Clowe's work on dark matter in space as the eighth most important discovery of the decade.

Joseph Shields, professor and chair of physics and astronomy, said of Clowe's distinction, "The recognition of his work by Discovery* is a fitting honor and is consistent with our efforts to foster forefront research and educational opportunities in astrophysics at Ohio University."

The confirmation of dark matter's existence is a major development in astrophysics, though Clowe's research cannot yet explain what dark matter actually is. Prior to this finding, dark matter was only a theoretical concept based on the observation that galaxies only had one-fifth of the visible matter required to create the gravity needed to hold them together.

Shields explained, "We can detect matter in the universe from the light it emits, or from its gravitational influence. The amount of matter we see emitting light is much less than the amount of matter we infer from gravity." Shields continued, "This has motivated the idea that most of the matter in the universe is dark -- in fact, perhaps some type of particle that we have never detected directly on earth. This is a radical idea. The alternative, however, is that we don't really understand gravity on cosmic scales, which is also a radical idea."

Clowe's discovery both confirms dark matter?s existence and conventional perceptions of gravity in astrophysics.

His research uses weak gravitational lensing to study galaxy clusters. One such cluster is where he made his most noted breakthrough. The Bullet Cluster is made up of two smaller groups of galaxies colliding. The impact has resulted in the hot gasses filtering to the center of two groups of stars and matter. Clowe was able to measure the mass of the matter by studying the gravitational bend of light around the stars.

"This is very exciting," Shields said. "Doug is an outstanding scientist, and we?re very happy that he's received this recognition."


* Following these links takes you outside of Ohio University's Web site.


Published: Jan 5, 2010 3:33 PM


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