Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Michelle Kuchera
The rotation curve of a galaxy is a plot of orbital speed versus radius from the galactic center. The orbital speed at a radius depends on how much mass is enclosed within that radius. If luminous matter made up all of the mass in galaxies, orbital speed would peak at a small radius and then slowly decay, because luminous matter is clustered near the galactic center. However, this prediction does not fit observed data. In reality, most rotation curves have been observed to peak but then flatten out, even at very large radii – the decay is nowhere to be found. To explain this, astrophysicists have postulated the existence of non-luminous or “dark” matter, distributed throughout galaxies in such a way that orbital speed does not fall off as radius increases. There are many different density distributions of dark matter, such as the Pseudo-Isothermal Halo Profile and the Navarro-Frenk-White Profile. This project used numerical methods of integration to simulate the rotation curve of the Milky Way Galaxy using these and other profiles.