(ORDO NEWS) — Despite making up 85% of the total mass of the universe, dark matter remains elusive for direct detection.
A new study suggests a unique way to find it, using the Earth’s atmosphere as a giant detector of dark matter particles flying through the air like meteors.
It is believed that dark matter pervades the cosmos, surrounding us all right this second. So why can’t we find it?
Because it is invisible – it does not emit, does not absorb or reflect light and very rarely interacts with ordinary matter.
This may seem like an overly convenient explanation, but scientists are confident that dark matter exists.
Although it has never been experimentally confirmed, dark matter seems to make itself felt through its gravitational influence on stars, galaxies and clusters whose movements and evolution make no sense without it.
The discovery of dark matter will be one of the most important scientific breakthroughs of all time, so it’s no surprise that it is the subject of so many experiments.
One problem is that dark matter has a wide range of potential properties, including different masses, energies, and interactions.
So physicists are looking for dark matter by designing a number of different experiments that look for signals based on certain properties it may or may not have.
The team speculates that if dark matter particles have large masses, they can sometimes enter Earth’s atmosphere like meteors and possibly leave detectable trails.
When meteors fly across the sky, they leave behind tails of radiation that produce free electrons. These “ionization deposits” reflect electromagnetic waves emitted by radar instruments, allowing them to detect meteors passing through the air.
The new research team says dark matter particles will produce similar but different signals.
The researchers described what these dark matter meteors might look like and suggested that careful analysis of these radar signals could reveal whether they are all meteors or some of them are actually dark matter particles lurking in plain sight.
In essence, this turns the entire atmosphere of the planet into one giant dark matter detector.
One of the key features of the new proposed method is that it will hunt for a type of dark matter that is often overlooked.
Dark matter particles can be very light and everywhere, or they can be massive and relatively rare. Most of the experiments are aimed at finding the former, usually in large objects deep underground, free from background noise.
But if the particles have a large mass, they may not reach these detectors, which may explain the lack of positive results for decades.
So the new method can broaden the search and can be used in other experiments to cross-check any potential findings they might find.
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