60-Second Science

Dark Stars Bigger Than Solar Systems?

Early stars partially composed of dark matter may have been too bloated for fusion. Chelsea Wald reports.

Heaven for deadheads: cosmologists have named a new theoretical object after the Grateful Dead classic, “Dark Star.” It’s the first stab at understanding how dark matter might have affected early stars.

No one knows what dark matter is composed of, so the scientists decided to go with a candidate called the neutralino. They think that neutralino interactions inside the first stars would have kept them bloated—big enough to engulf today’s solar systems. since the stars couldn’t collapse, they wouldn’t have ignited fusion—and that’s the whole point of a normal star.  Dark stars would still mainly be made of conventional matter, though, and would give off heat but no visible light.

If this paper in physical review letters is right, it would add a whole new phase to the evolution of stars. Dark stars might still be around today.  Or they might have collapsed to become regular stars or black holes. Like the Dead said, dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes.

—Chelsea Wald

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