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Research Fellows Directory

Mark Wilkinson

Dr Mark Wilkinson

Research Fellow

Organisation

University of Leicester

Research summary

My current research focuses on the study of dark matter, the

non-luminous component of the Universe which is responsible for

holding galaxies together. Without dark matter, our own Galaxy (the

Milky Way) would not have survived long enough to form stars like the

Sun, which are surrounded by rocky planets capable of supporting

life. The study of dark matter is thus central to our understanding of

how galaxies like the Milky Way formed and evolved.

In my research, I use the motions of stars in galaxies to look for

evidence of dark matter. My particular interest is in the small

satellite galaxies that orbit our own galaxy. These objects are

particularly useful for dark matter studies. We infer the presence of

large amounts of dark matter in these galaxies from the observation

that their component stars move at such high speeds that they should

all escape very rapidly and the galaxies should dissolve. The fact

that the galaxies are still observable suggests that the gravitational

attraction of an unseen massive component (which we call dark matter)

must be preventing the stars from escaping. Thus, the speeds of the

stars provide a way to estimate the amount of dark matter in a galaxy:

the faster the stars are moving in a particular region, the more dark

matter is required to be present.

We are entering a very exciting era for the study of dark matter, with

results from a number of different scientific fields poised to shed

light on its nature. Within the next five years, the Large Hadron

Collider (LHC) experiment in Geneva may produce dark matter particles

in the laboratory for the first time. Vast underground detectors are

also trying to pick out the signs of dark matter particles passing

through the Earth. Combining the results of these studies with

research such as my own which looks for dark matter in our Galaxy and

other, nearby systems using the motions of their stars, will lead to

significant advances in our understanding of the nature of dark

matter.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

Near-field cosmology with local galaxies

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2011 - Sep 2014

Value: £322,972.58

Near-field cosmology in the Local Group

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2006 - Sep 2011

Value: £487,471.35

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