Dark matter, proposed decades ago as a speculative component of the universe, is now known to be the vital ingredient in the cosmos: six times more abundant than ordinary matter, one-quarter of the total energy density, and the component that has controlled the growth of structure in the universe. Its nature remains a mystery, but assuming that it is composed of weakly interacting subatomic particles, is consistent with large-scale cosmic structure. However, recent analyses of structure on galactic and subgalactic scales have suggested discrepancies and stimulated numerous alternative proposals. We discuss how studies of the density, demography, history, and environment of smaller-scale structures may distinguish among these possibilities and shed new light on the nature of dark matter.
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