There’s more to the universe than meets the eyes – literally. We have known for many decades that there’s a lot more matter in the universe than what we can see with our naked eyes, and so far all attempts at discovering what this "dark matter" is have been unsuccessful.
A new hypothesis that's been gaining traction lately is that dark matter is actually black holes surrounding galaxies and stretched out in filaments crisscrossing intergalactic space.
Physicists from John Hopkins University believe that the discovery of gravitational waves provides more evidence for the dark matter/black hole connection. The black holes spotted by the gravitational observatory LIGO are in the right mass range to be the primordial black holes that could explain dark matter.
"We are not proposing this is the dark matter," said one of the authors, Marc Kamionkowski, in a statement. "We're not going to bet the house. It's a plausibility argument."
Last September, LIGO observed two black holes weighing about 30 solar masses merging into a 60 solar mass object. Black holes form from heavy stars going supernova, and in the local universe they don’t get bigger than 15 times the mass of the Sun.
The size of the objects spotted by LIGO suggest they were either formed by bigger stars, like the yet-to-be-observed first stars in the universe, or formed directly from the Big Bang.
Another interesting factor is the potentially high number of these objects based on the most recent numerical simulations.
"If you have a lot of 30-mass events, that begs an explanation," said co-author Ely D. Kovetz, a postdoctoral fellow in physics and astronomy. "That the discovery of gravitational waves could be connected to dark matter" is creating lots of excitement among astrophysicists.
"It's got a lot of potential," Kamionkowski added.
More analysis is necessary to corroborate this idea, but it’s a very bold hypothesis and could be the solution to one of the longstanding mysteries of astronomy.