In the ongoing hunt for Dark matter, two researchers claim to have found a powerful and unique way of detecting dark matter: Exoplanets.
In a recently published paper in the journal, Physical review letters, researchers Juri Smirnov and Rebecca K. Leane proposed to study dark matter by using Exoplanets.
Juri Smirnov who is a fellow at the Ohio State University’s Center for Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics collaborated with Rebecca Leane, a postdoctoral researcher at the SLAC national accelerator laboratory at the Stanford University. According to Juri Smirnov, this way of detecting Dark Matter is based on the fact that when the gravity of exoplanets captures dark matter, it travels to the core of the planet where it gets obliterated and releases energy in the form of heat. So the temperature of the planet should be directly proportional to dark matter absorbed by the planet.
But What Is Dark Matter
It is believed to be a form of matter which is speculated to form around 85% of the total matter in the Universe however, at the moment it’s still a mystery. It cannot be seen and it also hasn’t been detected in a lab yet. The concept of dark matter was introduced only to explain phenomena that couldn’t be explained simply by observable mass in the universe.
For example, Galaxies in our universe are rotating at such great speed that gravity generated by their observable matter isn’t sufficient to hold them together. They should have ripped apart at such great speeds. This implies that there is something at work that hasn’t yet been discovered and which is playing a role in keeping these galaxies intact by giving them extra mass thus generating the required extra gravity.
What is Dark matter made of and why is it hard to detect
Dark matter is any material that cant be detected directly and which can interact with visible matter through gravity. Hence it doesn’t actually need to be made of a new type of fundamental particles. Thus Baryonic matter could be a component of it but most scientists believe Non-Baryonic matter to be its major component due to their highly matching properties.
- BARYONIC MATTER: It consists of baryons (protons and neutrons). These make up ordinary stars and planets. This matter basically contributed to the formation of elements in the early Universe.
- NON-BARYONIC MATTER: It includes hypothetical articles like axions, sterile neutrinos, Weak interacting massive particles(WIMPS), Gravitationally interacting massive particles(GIMPS), Supersymmetric particles, geons, and Primordial black holes. This matter did not contribute to the formation of early universe elements, unlike the Baryonic matter. It is believed to be a major constituent of dark matter as it also cant be seen directly and its presence has come to know only via its gravitational effects.
The fact that Dark matter doesn’t interact with electromagnetic force i.e it doesn’t absorb, reflect or emit light, or sound waves makes it quite hard to detect. However, there have been experiments related to it in past and some of which are still active.
- Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory- An American observatory that observes gravitational waves. As it turns out, there’s a great possibility to uncover mysteries of dark matter using data through gravitational waves.
- MiniBooNe- An accelerator laboratory where an experiment regarding the presence of particles that shouldn’t exist was carried out recently. The experiment indicated the presence of sterile neutrino which could be a candidate particle of dark matter.
- Large Synoptic Survey Telescope- It is a telescope which is being built in Chile and that will make detailed images of vast regions of the sky every 15 seconds completing a full scan of the sky every 3 days. Over the course of 10 years, it will compare those different images and track how the sky shifts and changes thus providing us data on how dark matter pushes and pulls on the cosmos.
Regarding the Exoplanets to be used as a new way of detecting dark matter, researchers have recognized over 4300 confirmed exoplanets and more than 5695 are under investigation. The European space agency’s space observatory, Gaia is expected to search tens of thousands of exoplanets in coming years. “If we would find something like that, it would be amazing. Clearly, we would have found the dark matter.”, Smirnov added.