Dark Matter

Lucca CarlevariniMarch 7, 2022Time and SpaceAwesome Moments

Artwork by Andrea Huang, age 17

Space is amazing.

The sheer vastness, along with the trillions upon trillions of objects in the many billion galaxies of the universe, is almost incomprehensible to the human brain. Learning about one of these great mysteries, dark matter, sparked a realization about myself and changed my life.

When I was seven, I heard of dark matter during my first visit to the Rose Center for Earth and Space. I had always been told I should be a scientist. My interest in life and curiosity was constantly growing, and I loved to create experiments. Though I loved science, I never thought about becoming an astronomer. I wanted to be a biologist and was quite passionate about nature. I never imagined myself being interested in space, let alone wanting to be an astronomer or aerospace engineer. But that was about to change.

​At the Rose Center for Earth and Space, I saw the broad notion of space. I saw exciting ideology in this venture, observed exciting experiments, and found a newfound desire to conquer space that I would eventually take home with me. I was immediately captivated by the massive planets and amazing astronauts who ventured into the lonely abyss called space. I was alarmed by just how small I seemed to be. However, I was almost comforted to know that there were things far more extensive than I.

At one point, I was lost in the museum; my brother had wanted to get a toy from the gift store, and as we were traveling through the halls, I had let go of my mother's hand. One minute she was there, and the next, she was gone. I knew to stay put, but something caught my eye. Beautiful images of Saturn plastered the walls. I let my hand trail along the curves and bumps of the planet as I imagined myself running through the gas giant's hills, playing in its orange sand. As the images faded, my fantasy did too, and I realized I was far from where I had decided to stay. I panicked, but before I retraced my steps, I heard my mom calling out for me. I ran into my mother's arms, and she told me we would be going to a planetarium.

​The planetarium was enormous and, at first, pitch black. The dark room was almost mysterious; as we got into our seats, suspense filled the air. We waited for what felt like an eternity, and finally, planets and stars enveloped the space and danced around us. Music flooded the room, and soon a booming voice explained that we weren't seeing the whole story. I was on the verge of succumbing to sleep, but the images shifted before I could enter a different type of abyss. The blobs on the screen didn't interest me at first, and I was partially annoyed that I hadn't fallen asleep, but they rapidly caught my attention. The voice explained that they were dark matter, an invisible but powerful substance. My eyes lit up, and I fell in love.

Dark matter is composed of particles that don't reflect, absorb, or emit light, so they can't be detected by analyzing electromagnetic radiation. Dark matter cannot be seen directly. Scientists speculate that dark matter may be the reason for the unexplained movements of stars. Dark matter cannot be seen, but it can be felt because of its substantial impact on space. Dark matter has gravitational force, meaning it attracts other matter toward it. There's so much dark matter that its gravitational pull is enough to hold entire galaxies together, like our Milky Way.

It's funny. I could almost relate to dark matter. Having an extremely outgoing younger brother made me feel invisible. I was often praised for being quiet and not kicking up too much of a stir, which made me introverted, scared that people would be disappointed or annoyed if I did speak up or was too loud. As a result, I would often make walls between myself and my peers; I would hide how I felt and put on masks. Even though dark matter is invisible, it is strong, and it still makes shifts and directly affects the things around it. I realized I could be introverted and quiet, and still be strong.

My experience at the planetarium was terrific. I wrote papers and went to multiple museums that included dark matter in the exhibits. Afterward, I continued to be interested in space and dark matter. I found out about the program Discovering the Universe, which taught you not only about space but also how to control spaceships, use the projectors, and calculate the distance of stars in the planetarium. My final project in this program was my own presentation in the Rose Center for Earth and Space on black matter projected on the planetarium. After succeeding, I gained confidence in myself and validation that the path I chose was the correct one.

​Inspiration can come in many forms and can jump out at you at any time. My day at the Rose Center for Earth and Space inspired me to explore aerospace engineering. I love everything there is to learn about the field, and I strive to succeed. For those who haven't yet, I hope you find your inspiration or the thing that makes you live life to the fullest.

Lucca Carlevarini is 12 years of age and lives in New York City. In her free time, she likes to read, create experiments, and do tons of art. Lucca’s dream is to try to help save the world from itself and become an aerospace engineer and is in a band.