In 2018 an international team of researchers using the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and several other observatories uncovered, for the first time, a galaxy in our cosmic neighbourhood that is missing most of its dark matter. This discovery of the galaxy NGC 1052-DF2 was a surprise to astronomers, as it was understood that Dark matter (DM) is a key constituent in current models of galaxy formation and evolution. In fact, without the presence of DM, the primordial gas would lack enough gravity pull to start collapsing and forming new galaxies. A year later, another galaxy that misses dark matter was discovered, NGC 1052-DF4, which further triggered intense debates among astronomers about the nature of these objects.
Now, new Hubble data have been used to explain the reason behind the missing dark matter in NGC 1052-DF4, which resides 45 million light-years away. Mireia Montes of the University of New South Wales in Australia led an international team of astronomers to study the galaxy using deep optical imaging. They discovered that the missing dark matter can be explained by the effects of tidal disruption. The gravity forces of the neighbouring massive galaxy NGC 1035 are tearing NGC 1052-DF4 apart. During this process, the dark matter is removed, while the stars feel the effects of the interaction with another galaxy at a later stage.