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The cosmic dance of luminous and dark matter: Using stellar dynamics to shed light on the nature of dark matter

by Prof. Francesca Fragkoudi (Durham University (UK))

Tuesday 21 May 2024, 17:00 → 18:00 Europe/Athens

B228 (ΘΕΕ02) UCY Department of Physics Lecture Room 1 (Aglantzia Campus)

Abstract: One of the unsolved mysteries of modern physics is the nature of dark matter, whose existence is suggested via its gravitational influence on normal baryonic matter. The currently favoured cosmological model (Lambda Cold Dark Matter; ΛCDM), suggests that dark matter makes up ~85% of the mass budget of the Universe, is non-relativistic and collisionless. While this model has been extremely successful at large scales, it faces a number of challenges at 'small', i.e. galactic, scales. The effects of dark matter on the motion of stars within galaxies is one of the main ways in which we are able to unpick its properties. For example, it interacts strongly with non-axisymmetric stellar structures in the discs of galaxies, called 'bars', which are present in most spiral galaxies in the Universe, including in our own Milky Way. Cosmological N-body+hydrodynamical simulations are a particularly powerful tool for exploring the intimate link between the dynamical properties of barred galaxies and the dark matter halos surrounding them. I will present recent results on the properties of barred spiral galaxies in ΛCDM cosmological simulations, show how these compare with observations, and discuss what these reveal about the amount of luminous and dark matter in systems such as the Milky Way. Finally, I will detail how we are using the dynamics of barred galaxies in cosmological simulations in various alternative dark matter paradigms, in order to shed light on the nature of dark matter.

About the speaker: Dr Francesca Fragkoudi is an Assistant Professor and UKRI Future Leaders Fellow at the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, UK. She carried out her PhD at the Laboratoire d’Astrophysique de Marseille in France and held postdoctoral positions at the Paris Observatory, the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics and the headquarters of the European Southern Observatory (ESO) in Garching, Germany, before moving to Durham. Her research centres around galactic dynamics, the formation and evolution of the Milky Way and the nature of dark matter, using mostly theoretical and computational tools, such as numerical and hydrodynamical simulations. She is also an avid science communicator and founded an award-winning science outreach project that combines astronomy and peace-building, the "Columba-Hypatia: Astronomy for Peace" project.

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