A new proposed particle may, if found, finally give us real evidence of Dark Matter.
Dark matter is one of the universe’s biggest mysteries. Its existence is evidenced by its gravitational effect on stars and galaxies, by the bending of light rays (called gravitational lensing) and on its imprint on the cosmic background radiation.
Particle physics predicts that dark matter particles may be very heavy, as heavy as larger atoms, and our best estimates say that upwards of 80-85% of the universe’s mass is composed of the strange substance… but despite all the predictions and indirect evidence, nobody has ever managed to detect dark matter directly.
Lighter Dark Matter particles are unlikely, but there are some possibilities for their existence. Researchers from the University of Southampton have proposed that a new such particle may be indeed be all around us, and their theories have led to some interesting results. Their proposed particle has a mass of 100eV/c^2, which is roughly 0.02% of the mass of an electron. Their particle doesn’t interact with light, as dark matter should, but it does react, and strongly at that, with normal matter.
Normal matter composes a very small portion of our universe’s energy
They aren’t certain the particles will even penetrate Earth’s atmosphere, so the researchers are looking towards space for clues. Teaming up with the Macroscopic quantum resonators (MAQRO) consortium, they hope to monitor a particle of matter in space, exposing it to the flow of dark matter and observing if and how the dark matter interacts with the particle.
Dr James Bateman at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study, says: “This work brings together some very different areas of physics: theoretical particle physics, observational x-ray astronomy, and experimental quantum optics. Our candidate particle sounds crazy, but currently there seem to be no experiments or observations which could rule it out. Dark Matter is one of the most important unsolved problems in modern physics, and we hope that our suggestion will inspire others to develop detailed particle theory and even experimental tests.”