Quasars and Low Surface Brightness Galaxies as Probes of Dark Matter
Abstract: Most of the matter in the Universe appears to be in some form which does not emit or absorb light. While evidence for the existence of this dark matter has accumulated over the last seventy years, its nature remains elusive. In this thesis, quasars and low surface brightness galaxies (LSBGs) are used to investigate the properties of the dark matter. Quasars are extremely bright light sources which can be seen over vast distances. These cosmic beacons may be used to constrain dark matter in the form of low-mass, compact objects along the line of sight, as such objects are expected to induce brightness fluctuations in quasars through gravitational microlensing effects. Using a numerical microlensing model, we demonstrate that the uncertainty in the typical size of the optical continuum-emitting region in quasars represents the main obstacle in this procedure. We also show that, contrary to claims in the literature, microlensing fails to explain the observed long-term optical variability of quasars. Here, quasar distances are inferred from their redshifts, which are assumed to stem from the expansion of the Universe. Some astronomers do however defend the view that quasar redshifts could have a different origin. A number of potential methods for falsifying claims of such non-cosmological redshifts are proposed. As the ratio of dark to luminous matter is known to be unusually high in LSBGs, these objects have become the prime targets for probing dark matter halos around galaxies. Here, we use spectral evolutionary models to constrain the properties of the stellar populations in a class of unusually blue LSBGs. Using rotation curve data obtained at the ESO Very Large Telescope, we also investigate the density profiles of their dark halos. We find our measurements to be inconsistent with the predictions of the currently favoured cold dark matter scenario.
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