The Dark Side of the Universe Comes to Light at Florida Tech March 23

MELBOURNE, FLA.—Although the darkness that envelops most of the universe can’t be seen, it is not empty. Scientists estimate that roughly 70 percent of the universe is made up of dark energy; dark matter makes up about 25 percent of the universe. The rest, called normal matter—everything that astronomical instruments have ever observed and everything on Earth—makes up less than 5 percent. So what is this dark stuff anyway?

Astronomy buffs get a chance to find out March 23 in the next installment of Florida Institute of Technology’s Astronomy Lecture Series, “The Dark Side of the Universe.” Presented by Sukanya Chakrabarti, Florida Atlantic University (FAU) assistant professor, the free lecture on campus will be from 8 to 9 p.m. in the F.W. Olin Engineering Complex, Room EC118. There will be a rooftop public star viewing following the presentation if weather permits.

Anassistant professor at the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science at FAU, Chakrabarti will discuss the current understanding of the dark side of the universe. She will also present some of her recent work, which can render dark or nearly dark galaxies visible and characterize the density profile of dark matter in galaxies. This technique may help address some fundamental problems in cosmology.

“The basic idea of this method to search for dark matter-dominated galaxies is to analyze their gravitational effects on galactic disks. It’s kind of like dropping pebbles in a pond; if you understand the physics of this well enough, you could figure out how massive the pebble was even if you didn’t see it fall in,” said Chakrabarti.

In 2005, Chakrabarti earned her doctoral degree from the University of California, Berkeley. After graduating, she became a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at Harvard University.

The F.W. Olin Engineering Complex is located on West University Boulevard. For more information, call (321) 674-7207or visit

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