One of the Universe's Mysteries
10:38 pm
Wed May 2, 2012

Scientist Looking for Answers to Dark Matter

An astronomer who grew up in Macomb is one of the researchers looking to unlock the mystery that is dark matter.

“I think people should care about dark matter insofar as they care about the universe in which they live,” Matthew Walker said.

Dark matter cannot be seen, yet scientists estimate it accounts for roughly 80% of the matter in the universe.  

“What we have here on earth is great and unique and important, but it's clearly not all that there is,” Walker said.

“Insofar as we're interested in looking up, one should be struck by the fact that when we do so we come across evidence that most of the stuff up there is dark matter. So naturally we should want to know what that is.”

Walker is especially interested in dwarf galaxies, which appear the have a greater percentage of dark matter than other galaxies. He said dwarf galaxies are relics of the early universe and a time when dark matter was more prominent.

Walker said the main thing dark matter does is enhance the effects of gravity. But it is not a form of gravity -- it is a form of material on which gravity operates.

Walker does most of his observational work in Chile, where the night sky is dark and there is a desert climate with little rain and few clouds. He analyzes data in Cambridge, MA, where he holds the Hubble Fellowship at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Walker graduated from Macomb High School and Western Illinois University. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Walker said he learns something every day as he tries to discover what the answer is to dark matter.