The Key to the Missing Matter in the Universe?

Recent studies have led to a renewed interest in the concept of Dyson spheres, theoretical megastructures that could potentially harness the energy of entire stars.

This intriguing idea has led some scientists to speculate whether such structures could explain the universe’s missing mass. Despite the excitement, many experts remain skeptical about the existence of Dyson spheres and their role in explaining astronomical phenomena.

The concept of Dyson spheres

The idea of ​​Dyson spheres was first proposed by physicist Freeman Dyson in 1960, inspired by Olaf Stapledon’s science fiction novel “Star Maker.” Dyson proposed that an advanced alien civilization could build enormous structures around their stars to capture solar energy.

These structures, while blocking the visible light from the star, Infrared radiationmaking them potentially detectable by astronomers. “It could just be regular old astrophysics,” said astrophysicist and science journalist Dr. Ethan Siegel, who stressed the need for extraordinary evidence to support the existence of such megastructures.

The concept gained a lot of attention with the discovery of the mysterious star KIC 8462852also known as Boyajian’s star, which showed irregular and significant dips in brightness. Some speculated that these could be caused by an incomplete Dyson sphere, although this remains unconfirmed.

Missing mass in the universe

Astronomers have long been confused about the missing mass in the universe. There are two types of missing mass: dark matterwhat is needed to explain the gravitational behavior of galaxies, and regular matterwhich consists mainly of hydrogen and helium. Based on current observations, this appears to be scarce.

While dark matter is thought to be made of exotic particles, the missing ordinary matter remains a mystery. Some have proposed that vast filaments of gas stretching between galaxies could be responsible.

Can Dyson spheres explain the missing mass?

Despite the fascinating nature of Dyson ballsare unlikely to account for the missing mass in the universe. Complete Dyson spheres, which would completely encircle a star, are considered impractical because of the immense amount of material required and the gravitational instability such structures would face.

Even if they were built, these spheres would likely… very thin and unstable, making them unlikely. More likely are Dyson swarms or ringsnetworks of solar-energy-collecting satellites orbiting a star. These structures would capture only a small fraction of a star’s light, making them easier to construct, but much less likely to account for the missing mass. Furthermore, if such swarms are common, their infrared radiation should be detectable by telescopes such as the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST)However, no evidence has been found to suggest that they are widespread.

Recent observations and skepticism

A recent study published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society reported the discovery of seven stars with unusual infrared signatures, possibly indicating Dyson spheres. These stars, which are less than 1,000 light-years from Earth, show heat signatures that have not yet been fully explained.

Many experts remain skeptical, however. Dr. Janna Levin, a theoretical cosmologist at Barnard College, suggested that these signatures could be due to natural astrophysical phenomena such as planetary collisions or young stars with surrounding material. “Heat signatures are so generic in nature that it’s far from a smoking gun and there are many possible natural explanations,” Levin told Salon.

Astrophysicist Dr. Erik Zackrisson, one of the study’s co-authors, agreed with this skepticism, noting that while these stars are the best candidates for Dyson balls So far, other explanations such as dust from cosmic events or background sources are also plausible. “They are the best Dyson sphere candidates we have found so far, but this does not mean that they are Dyson spheres, or even that Dyson spheres are the most likely explanation for the phenomenon we see,” Zackrisson said.

The scientific value of searching

Despite the doubts, the search for Dyson balls has significant scientific value. It encourages the exploration of unconventional ideas and promotes interdisciplinary research that combines astrophysics, history and other disciplines. The potential discovery of alien megastructures would be a groundbreaking achievement, profoundly changing our knowledge of the universe and the existence of advanced extraterrestrial civilizations.

“What could be more exciting and existentially terrifying than the discovery of extraterrestrial life?” Levin mused, emphasizing the importance of keeping an open mind while maintaining scientific rigor. Dr. Siegel added, “It’s important to keep an open mind, and it’s easy to see why the wildest possibilities excite us. But without stronger evidence, this is just another example of people getting excited about what will almost certainly be a big nothing burger.”

In conclusion, while Dyson balls While they remain a fascinating theoretical concept, their existence as a solution to the universe’s missing mass is highly unlikely. However, the ongoing search for these megastructures continues to inspire scientific research and the pursuit of understanding the cosmos.

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