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Astronomy science fair project:
What is Dark Matter?




Science Fair Project Information
Title: What is Dark Matter?
Subject: Astronomy / Physics
Grade level: Middle school - grades 7-9
Project Type: Descriptive
Cost: Low
Awards: None
Affiliation: Canada Wide Virtual Science Fair
Link: http://www.virtualsciencefair.org/2007/mash7a2/
Short Background

In physics and cosmology, dark matter is hypothetical matter that does not interact with the electromagnetic force, but whose presence can be inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter. According to present observations of structures larger than galaxies, as well as Big Bang cosmology, dark matter and dark energy account for the vast majority of the mass in the observable universe. The observed phenomena which imply the presence of dark matter include the rotational speeds of galaxies, orbital velocities of galaxies in clusters, gravitational lensing of background objects by galaxy clusters such as the Bullet cluster, and the temperature distribution of hot gas in galaxies and clusters of galaxies. Dark matter also plays a central role in structure formation and galaxy evolution, and has measurable effects on the anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background. All these lines of evidence suggest that galaxies, clusters of galaxies, and the universe as a whole contain far more matter than that which interacts with electromagnetic radiation: the remainder is called the "dark matter component."

The dark matter component has much more mass than the "visible" component of the universe. Only about 4% of the total energy density in the universe (as inferred from gravitational effects) can be seen directly. About 22% is thought to be composed of dark matter. The remaining 74% is thought to consist of dark energy, an even stranger component, distributed diffusely in space. Determining the nature of the missing mass is one of the most important problems in modern cosmology and particle physics. It has been noted that the names "dark matter" and "dark energy" serve mainly as expressions of human ignorance, much as the marking of early maps with "terra incognita".

Dark matter is occasionally described in computer and video games and other works of fiction. In such cases, it is usually attributed extraordinary physical or magical properties. Such descriptions are often inconsistent with the properties of dark matter proposed in physics and cosmology. For example in computer games, Dark Matter is often used as material for making weapons and items.

Source: Wikipedia (All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License)

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