If dark matter exists in the universe, scientists now have set the strongest limit to date on its mass.
View of the universe from NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope. Credit: Koushiappas and Geringer-Sameth/Brown University
In a paper to be published on Dec. 1 in Physical Review Letters (available in pdf), Brown University assistant professor Savvas Koushiappas and graduate student Alex Geringer-Sameth report that dark matter must have a mass greater than 40 giga-electron volts in dark-matter collisions involving heavy quarks. (The masses of elementary particles are regularly expressed in term of electron volts.) Using publicly available data collected from an instrument on NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope and a novel statistical approach, the Brown pair constrained the mass of dark matter particles by calculating the rate at which the particles are thought to cancel each other out in galaxies that orbit the Milky Way galaxy.
“What we find is if a particle’s mass is less than 40 GeV, then it cannot be the dark matter particle,” Koushiappas said.
The observational measurements are important because they cast doubt on recent results from dark matter collaborations that have reported detecting the elusive particle in underground experiments. Those collaborations – DAMA/LIBRA, CoGeNT and CRESST – say they found dark matter with masses ranging from 7 to 12 GeV, less than the limit determined by the Brown physicists.
“If for the sake of argument a dark matter particle’s mass is less than 40 GeV, it means the amount of dark matter in the universe today would be so much that the universe would not be expanding at the accelerated rate we observe,” Koushiappas said, referring to the 2011 Nobel prize in physics that was awarded for the discovery that the expansion of the universe is accelerating.
The Fermi-LAT Collaboration, an international scientific collaboration, arrived at similar results, using a different methodology. The Brown and Fermi-LAT collaboration papers will be published in the same issue of Physical Review Letters.
Physicists believe everything that can be seen — planets, stars, galaxies and all else — makes up only 4 percent of the universe. Observations indicate that dark matter accounts for about 23 percent of the universe, while the remaining part is made up of dark energy, the force believed to cause the universe’s accelerated expansion. The problem is dark matter and dark energy do not emit electromagnetic radiation like stars and planets; they can be “seen” only through their gravitational effects. Its shadowy profile and its heavy mass are the main reasons why dark matter is suspected to be a weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP), which makes it very difficult to study.
What physicists do know is that when a WIMP and its anti-particle collide in a process known as annihilation, the debris spewed forth is comprised of heavy quarks and leptons. Physicists also know that when a quark and its anti-quark sibling annihilate, they produce a jet of particles that includes photons, or light.
Koushiappas and Geringer-Sameth in essence reversed the annihilation chain reaction. They set their sights on seven dwarf galaxies which observations show are full of dark matter because their stars’ motion cannot be fully explained by their mass alone. These dwarf galaxies also are largely bereft of hydrogen gas and other common matter, meaning they offer a blank canvas to better observe dark matter and its effects. “There’s a high signal-to-noise ratio. They’re clean systems,” Koushiappas said.
The pair analyzed gamma ray data collected over the last three years by the Fermi telescope to measure the number of photons in the dwarf galaxies. From the number of photons, the Brown researchers were able to determine the rate of quark production, which, in turn, allowed them to establish constraints on the mass of dark matter particles and the rate at which they annihilate.
“This is the first time that we can exclude generic WIMP particles that could account for the abundance of dark matter in the universe,” Koushiappas said.
Geringer-Sameth developed the statistical framework to analyze the data and then applied it to observations of the dwarf galaxies. “This is a very exciting time in the dark matter search, because many experimental tools are finally catching up to long-standing theories about what dark matter actually is,” said Geringer-Sameth, from Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y. “We are starting to really put these theories to the test.”
The National Science Foundation funded the research.
Editors: Brown University has a fiber link television studio available for domestic and international live and taped interviews, and maintains an ISDN line for radio interviews. For more information, call (401) 863-2476.
Richard Lewis | EurekAlert!
Structured light and nanomaterials open new ways to tailor light at the nanoscale
23.04.2018 | Academy of Finland
On the shape of the 'petal' for the dissipation curve
23.04.2018 | Lobachevsky University
At the Hannover Messe 2018, the Bundesanstalt für Materialforschung und-prüfung (BAM) will show how, in the future, astronauts could produce their own tools or spare parts in zero gravity using 3D printing. This will reduce, weight and transport costs for space missions. Visitors can experience the innovative additive manufacturing process live at the fair.
Powder-based additive manufacturing in zero gravity is the name of the project in which a component is produced by applying metallic powder layers and then...
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
24.04.2018 | Life Sciences
24.04.2018 | Materials Sciences
24.04.2018 | Trade Fair News