Dark matter, invisible and elusive, is one of the most fascinating enigmas in the field of cosmology. Despite our inability to directly observe, measure, or interact with it, dark matter continues to be an integral component of our universe – making up approximately 85% of its total mass. So, what do we know about dark matter, and why is it so critical in shaping our understanding of the cosmos? Let’s dive in and unravel the intricate mysteries of dark matter.

For a moment, imagine spinning a coin on the table. The way it whirls, rotates, and ultimately settles is dictated primarily by ‘seen’ factors—gravity, friction, the force applied to it. But now, picture if the coin began moving erratically, defying expectation, seemingly beholden to invisible forces. This, to a large degree, is the phenomenon astronomer Vera Rubin observed that plays a significant role in our understanding of dark matter.

In the 1970s, Rubin observed that galaxies didn’t behave as one would predict. Specifically, the rotation speeds of stars on the outer perimeters of galaxies defied the convention of Newtonian physics—the stars were simply spinning too fast to be held by the visible mass’s gravitational pull, yet they didn’t wander off into the cosmos. Named the ‘Galaxy Rotation Problem’, this gave birth to the concept of ‘Dark Matter’. To explain those fast-moving stars, cosmologists introduced a form of matter that did not interact with light and hence remained unseen, otherwise known as ‘Dark Matter’.

Although direct detection remains elusive, dark matter’s effects can be viewed on a grand scale. Gravitational lensing, for instance, where the gravitational pull of mass impacts the travel path of light from distant galaxies, reveals dark matter. Typically, the bending of light or “lensing” effect depends on the mass of a foreground object. In some cases, the lensing effect is too strong to be caused by visible matter alone, thus implying the presence of dark matter.

Dark matter isn’t simply an oddity on the cosmic scale; it is the backbone upon which galaxies are formed. Without it providing additional gravitational ‘glue’, galaxies as we understand could not hold together. Their stars would fly apart, flung into the vast expanse of the cosmos. Roughly speaking, dark matter acts as the ‘scaffolding’ to our universe.

Nevertheless, despite the critical role dark matter seemingly plays, and despite the decades-long scientific pursuit to uncover it, it still remains one of the most mysterious concepts in astrophysics. Currently, potential candidates for what consists of the dark matter are Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs) and axions. Yet, these remain theoretical, their existence largely supported by the phenomena they can explain.

As we continue our quest to unravel the mysteries of dark matter, its discovery will undoubtedly revolutionize our understanding of the universe radically. How stars and galaxies form, the fate of the cosmos and our place within it could potentially be rewritten. It is an exciting prospect to think of what our universe has yet to reveal.

The quest to understand the enigma of dark matter is a testament to human curiosity, a beacon driving us to peel back the layers of the universe and probe deeper. Although dark matter continues to veils its face, we have come a long way from Rubin’s initial discovery. The riddle of dark matter, once solved, will unlock a new chapter in our cosmic odyssey and will bring us a step closer to understanding the cosmic narrative of our universe.