Scientists will search for dark matter using cosmic quantum clocks

(ORDO NEWS) — American scientists have proposed using space quantum clocks to detect dark matter in the vicinity of the Sun, writes Vice. The success of this mission would help answer a number of questions about our universe.

Physicists have proposed an amazing space mission that could help us unravel the nature of dark matter, one of the biggest unsolved mysteries in science.

Dark matter is considered to be a fundamental component of the universe because there is five times more of it than the familiar matter that makes up stars, planets, and even ourselves.

But despite its abundance, dark matter turned out to be completely elusive for our instruments: it was not possible to detect it.

We know it exists only through indirect observations of its gravitational influence on luminous objects such as galaxy clusters.

Scientists have developed many sophisticated techniques to search for dark matter, the discovery of which would help answer a number of questions about our universe, but none of the methods lived up to expectations.

And now a group of scientists led by UC Irvine physicist Yu-DaiTsai proposed an amazing space mission. The idea is to send the most accurate clock ever invented into space to find dark matter that is likely related to the Sun.

The mission, dubbed SpaceQ, would help discover “new physical laws” and “explore many fundamental physical questions,” according to a study published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Astronomy.

“Dark matter remains one of the most important mysteries of astronomy and cosmology due to its unknown and elusive nature,” Tsai said in an email to the editors.

“If we could find dark matter and know its properties, this would give us an understanding of the evolution of the Universe, many astrophysical measurements, including the speed of objects on small scales (from small galaxies to clusters of galaxies),” the researcher explained.

He also added that “this will be the most important breakthrough in the study of particle physics, as it is the only missing element needed to understand particle physics itself.”

SpaceQ’s mission concept is built around the incredible accuracy of what the team calls “quantum clocks.”

This category includes existing atomic clocks, which are ultra-precise instruments that use vibrations within atoms to tell time, as well as molecular and nuclear clocks, which are currently under development and are expected to be even more sensitive.

This clock not only tells the time, but also measures even the smallest changes in the frequencies of atoms.

So Tsai thought about using the clock to search for a hypothetical version of dark matter known as ultralight dark matter, which could theoretically be connected to the Sun through a structure such as a dark matter halo.

A space mission to the Sun is expected to help detect ultra-light dark matter, if indeed it exists, by measuring subtle changes in the frequency of atomic transitions in quantum clocks, showing how these particles interact with other forms of matter.

“We have demonstrated that the predicted sensitivity of the cosmic clock to detect the Sun-associated halo (dark matter) is orders of magnitude superior to the Earth clock,” Tsai and his colleagues wrote in their paper.

“As far as we know, this is so far the only way to achieve the desired sensitivity in the parameter space of interest to us,” the researchers concluded.

Tsai has been developing the concept since 2020 together with the co-authors of the study: Marianna Safronova, an expert in nuclear physics at the University of Delaware, and a dark matter specialist at the Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Universe. Kavli Joshua Eby.

“The mission using a solar probe will allow us to study the increased density of dark matter near the Sun using atomic clocks and test the very interesting and reasonable target models presented in our work,” Tsai said. potential as you get closer to the sun. This was one of the main physical reasons for creating accurate clocks.”

The researchers were inspired to carry out this study by two unprecedented NASA missions: the Deep Space Atomic Clock, which tested a unique space clock with a navigation system launched in 2019, and the Parker Solar Probe, which was launched in 2018 and broke records for the minimum distance from Sun.

SpaceQ is a mind-blowing blend of two unprecedented missions, combining Parker’s solar rendezvous maneuvers with the sensitive atomic measurements of deep space navigation clocks.

“Deep Space Atomic Clock technology allows us to fly into space, and the Parker Solar Probe is a great mission to study the sun,” said Tsai. study of fundamental physics, not to mention their combination”.

So far, this is just an idea, but it represents a new approach to the search for dark matter, which could be much more effective than existing techniques.

But when you think about how crazy it would be to search for dark matter – one of the biggest missing elements associated with the universe – around the sun, launching a killer probe absurdly equipped with accurate clocks to it?

“With the help of a network of cosmic and terrestrial clocks, many fundamental physical questions can be studied, including unstable topological dark matter and multichannel characteristics of exotic particles,” the researchers concluded.

“In our opinion, if the signal were present, a comparison of the Earth and cosmic clocks would allow us to map the density (dark matter) in the vicinity of the Earth, in order to further limit the space of the bound state (dark matter).”

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