The balance of evidence indicates that individual galaxies and groups or clusters of galaxies are embedded in enormous distributions of cold, weakly interacting dark matter. These dark matter 'halos' provide the scaffolding for all luminous structure in the universe, and their properties comprise an essential part of the current cosmological model. I review the internal properties of dark matter halos, focussing on the simple, universal trends predicted by numerical simulations of structure formation. Simulations indicate that halos should all have roughly the same spherically-averaged density profile and kinematic structure, and predict simple distributions of shape, formation history and substructure in density and kinematics, over an enormous range of halo mass and for all common variants of the concordance cosmology. I describe observational progress towards testing these predictions by measuring masses, shapes, profiles and substructure in real halos, using baryonic tracers or gravitational lensing. An important property of simulated halos (possibly the most important property) is their dynamical 'age', or degree of internal relaxation. The age of a halo may have almost as much effect as its mass in determining the state of its baryonic contents, so halo ages are also worth trying to measure observationally. I review recent gravitational lensing studies of galaxy clusters which should measure substructure and relaxation in a large sample of individual cluster halos, producing quantitative measures of age that are well-matched to theoretical predictions. The age distributions inferred from these studies will lead to second-generation tests of the cosmological model, as well as an improved understanding of cluster assembly and the evolution of galaxies within clusters.
Advances in Astronomy
- Pub Date:
- Astrophysics - Cosmology and Extragalactic Astrophysics;
- Astrophysics - Galaxy Astrophysics;
- High Energy Physics - Phenomenology
- v2: additional references and minor corrections to match the published version