Scientists' best theories about the universe suggests that smaller galaxies must be distributed in seemingly random orbits around their host galaxies.
But astronomical observations have shown that these small galaxies are arranged in thin disks around their hosts, not unlike Saturn's rings, according to the report published in Vice. Needless to say, this represents a puzzling difference between knowledge and theory.
Researchers are now trying to reconcile this gap, suggesting that smaller galaxies may be analogous to invisible "walls" created by a new class of particles called symmetrons - a fascinating proposal that could rewrite the laws of astrophysics.
According to the standard theory known as the Lambda Cold Dark Matter (Lambda-CDM) model, the universe formed from three elements: the cosmological constant, a coefficient added by Einstein to explain his equations of general relativity. That is, cold dark matter is slow moving theoretical particles that do not emit radiation, and conventional matter that we interact with every moment.
That theory suggests that smaller galaxies must be captured by the gravitational pull of larger host galaxies and forced into chaotic orbits, something that is not reflected in real-world observations.
Now, two researchers from the University of Nottingham may have come up with an explanation, as detailed in a new, yet peer-reviewed this study.
They believes that a "fifth force" may be organizing galaxies into a disk shape, while still considering the existence of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up the vast majority of the mass of the universe.
According to his theory, speculative particles known as symmetries, which researchers use to explain gaps in our knowledge of the universe, can generate this "force" to create "domain walls" or boundaries in space. Anish Naik, a researcher at the University of Nottingham and lead author of the preprint, told Vice.
"That's the context in which people study theories like the symmatron theory - it's a new particle candidate for dark energy and/or dark matter," he said.
These particles can exist in clusters of different polar states, forming invisible walls between them. These walls, in turn, can trigger smaller galaxies to form disks around much larger host galaxies.
But many questions remain, and Naik and his colleague Claire Burj, a physicist at the University of Nottingham, have a lot of work ahead of them to solidify the theory.