NASA's new division, Beyond Einstein, will investigate profound cosmic mysteries: the nature of dark energy, the physics of the Big Bang, and the distribution and types of black holes in the universe.
In the Star Trek episode, "Cathexis," the USS Voyager encountered trianic energy beings known as the Komar, who lived in a dark matter nebula, in 2371. The starship entered a "dark matter nebula," a dark cloud, with zero visibility, that the crew could not see into.
Unlike the fiction of Star Trek, the real dark matter of the Universe does not emit radiation, which means it doesn't shine and does not even absorb radiation; you wouldn't even know you were in a dark matter nebula if one existed. If it did either, it would be detectable by telescope; however it can be tracked with difficulty by gamma astronomy.
The nature, origin, and distribution of dark matter and dark energy is one of the great unsolved mysteries of 21st-century science.
It seems crazy to us Earthlings that as much as 96 percent of the universe is composed of dark matter that is by its nature invisible to us. In other words, we live in a universe that for the most part we can't even see!
Results from NASA's WMAP satellite and telescope findings indicate that of the entire mass content of the universe, ordinary matter -you, me, trees, Mt. Rushmore, your pet cat, protons, neutrons, electrons, atoms, molecules) makes up only about 4 percent of the Universe (and of that 4 percent half of that is in the form of stars and planets). And the true mystery is that at least two thirds of the invisible universe is not "dark matter" but something far more baffling: that something is "dark energy" -the energy and negative pressure of an invisible field that permeates space that is responsible for making the universe accelerate.
And even more baffling and mysterious, if you add up the dark energy responsible for making the universe accelerate, it actually represents a total mass that is more than all the matter -visible and dark- put together.
Paging Dr. Einstein, please!
The Beyond Einstein Program consists of five proposed missions: two major observatories and three smaller probes. Technology development already is under way on proposed observatories. The Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA) would orbit the sun and measure gravitational waves in our galaxy and beyond. Constellation-X would peer at matter falling into supermassive black holes.
The Beyond Einstein spacecraft will build on such current NASA missions as the Hubble Space Telescope, the Chandra X-ray Observatory, and the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe.
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