Warm, cold, just right? Physicists at the University of California, Davis are taking the temperature of dark matter, the mysterious substance that makes up about a quarter of our universe.

We have very little idea of what dark matter is and physicists have yet to detect a dark matter particle. But we do know that the gravity of clumps of dark matter can distort light from distant objects. Chris Fassnacht, a physics professor at UC Davis and colleagues are using this distortion, called gravitational lensing, to learn more about the properties of dark matter.

The standard model for dark matter is that it is ‘cold,’ meaning that the particles move slowly compared to the speed of light, Fassnacht said. This is also tied to the mass of dark matter particles. The lower the mass of the particle, the ‘warmer’ it is and the faster it will move.

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