One of the most fundamental scientific questions is “What is the universe made of?” To date, we can only answer that question for about 4% of the universe. The latest astrophysics research tells us that perhaps a quarter of the remaining 96% is dark matter. We do not know what dark matter is, why it exists, or even where it is. While dark matter is believed to form rings around galaxies in gigantic halos, this only accounts for a fraction of the dark matter in the universe. So where is this missing dark matter? More importantly, how can we find out?
In a collaborative project with astrophysicists from the Carnegie Observatories, we aim to answer this question through new research and with the help of citizen scientists. We have begun to characterize the optical signatures of dark matter when it interacts with luminous matter, and we plan to search the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) catalogue to find examples of these signatures. To do so, we plan to enlist the aid of the Galaxy Zoo, an online community of over 150,000 citizen scientists. If you wish to help, stay tuned for more information. We are also in the process of producing a documentary film about this work and the way in which philosophy and astrophysics can help to make the invisible visible.