Sun's dark matter trap

Jul 13, 2010 by Pete Wilton
Ultraviolet image of a solar storm: NASA/JPL

The Sun could be the best place to look for dark matter - the invisible ‘stuff’ that is thought to make up about 83% of the matter in the Universe.

That’s what new Oxford University research reported in a recent suggests.

The work looks at the possibility that is much lighter than the particles most dark matter hunters are looking for. Such ‘heavy’ particles are also their own antiparticles, so that when a WIMP meets a WIMP they annihilate each other, making it puzzling that there’s still so much dark matter around.

The Oxford team ask: what if, instead of being 100 times the mass of a proton, dark matter particles were only 5 times heavier than a proton but had the same - excess of particles over antiparticles?

‘If it were five times heavier, it would get five times the abundance. That’s what dark matter is,’ Subir Sarkar of Oxford University’s Rudolf Peierls Centre for Theoretical Physics, who led the work with Mads Frandsen, told Wired.com's Lisa Grossman. ‘That’s the simplest explanation for dark matter in my view.’

Because these ‘light’ dark matter particles don’t annihilate each other, Subir and Mads explain, they could be hoovered up by the of a star like our and trapped there.

Subir comments: ‘The sun has been whizzing around the galaxy for 5 billion years, sweeping up all the dark matter as it goes.’

The idea that the Sun acts as a cage for a large amount of dark matter could help to solve a long-standing mystery of solar physics - how the Sun transports heat from its core to the surface so fast when photons and ordinary particles should be colliding with each other, slowing the process down.

inside the Sun interact very weakly with ordinary matter (but more strongly with each other) and can transport heat to the surface in a novel manner.

‘When we do the calculation, it turns out that this effect may help to solve the solar composition problem,’ Subir reveals.

Even better, calculations of what this component of dark matter would do to neutrinos given off by the Sun indicate that its effect would be detectable by two upcoming experiments: Borexino and SNO+.

‘We know protons make up most of the luminous matter in the universe and, as opposed to many other particles, we know the origin of the proton mass and why it is stable,’ Mads tells me. ‘So it really is a simple and intuitive idea that dark matter would share properties with the proton. Instead the WIMP type candidates in fact are nothing like the .’

Subir adds: ‘It’s a speculative idea, but it’s testable. And the tools to test it are coming on line pretty fast. We don’t have to wait 20 years.’

Explore further: New multiscale model unifies physical laws of water flow to span all scales

More information: PRL paper: prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v105/i1/e011301

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User comments : 29

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Bitflux
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
Interesting how its allways that mysterious missing component... wasnt there something called the aether that scientists looked for, for a long time.

It just seems to me, that something so seemingly abundant could be so elusive - it feels like the universe is laughing at us :o)
Adriab
5 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2010
Experiments and observation drive theory, in this case observation to this point has been, well, not working.
Don't worry, bitflux, we just need better tools and methods, we'll get our theory straightened out eventually.
physHORSE
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2010
Wouldn't this accumulation of dark matter effect the suns gravity in any way? Or perhaps its mass is too negligible?
Adriab
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2010
Wouldn't this accumulation of dark matter effect the suns gravity in any way? Or perhaps its mass is too negligible?


There'd certainly be an effect. Imagine that the proposition that these Oxford folks put out is true. Then there would be a non-trivial amount of heavy (think5x to 10x mass, not 1000x) particles.

The result would be our estimated mass of the sun would be lower than the measured mass. There are plenty of issues one can come up with for testing this, but the ideas are there.
Jigga
1 / 5 (9) Jul 13, 2010
dark matter particles inside the Sun ... can transport heat to the surface in a novel manner.
Actually there are a lotta controversies regarding the (history of) solar thermal flux with respect to ongoing discussion about (origin of) global warming - so I don't expect, physicists could collect sufficiently reliable data for confirmation of dark matter mechanism in such way.
mysticshakra
1.8 / 5 (10) Jul 13, 2010
Psst... there is no dark matter.

Adriab, science by observation is a relic of the past. Today we use models and discover things by playing with numbers. Science has become art with credentials.
Adriab
5 / 5 (5) Jul 13, 2010
mysticshakra,

We use use models to predict possible new observations/experimental conditions, we still do the experiments.

Models can help us aim our experiments, but it is still the practical that defines the theory.

There was a big push back from theory in the 90's and early 2000's. Theoretical physicists stepped up to bat and delivered many theories. We still look to experiments to show these theories as lacking or acceptable.
TimESimmons
1.5 / 5 (8) Jul 13, 2010
Yes mysticshakra there is no dark matter. And here are the observations....

http://www.presto...ndex.htm
gunslingor1
1 / 5 (3) Jul 13, 2010
aether turned into space-time; doesn't matter what you call it, it's still that common "fabric" that is everywhere in the universe, defines the boundries of the universe and that can be used as a reference point from anywhere.

gunslingor1
5 / 5 (1) Jul 13, 2010
dark matter particles inside the Sun ... can transport heat to the surface in a novel manner.
Actually there are a lotta controversies regarding the (history of) solar thermal flux with respect to ongoing discussion about (origin of) global warming - so I don't expect, physicists could collect sufficiently reliable data for confirmation of dark matter mechanism in such way.


What contraverisies are you talking about? I haven't heard anything.
mysticshakra
1 / 5 (6) Jul 13, 2010
If observation were being used we wouldn't be stuck on gravity as being so important in cosmology and we wouldn't be inventing a new particle every week. Or black holes.
fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2010
"stuck on gravity" *giggles immaturely*

OK, Mystic Shakra -- so what observation are we missing? The one where galaxies seem to spin too quickly? How about the ones where light from distant stars is bent out of place by the sun during an eclipse?

Better question -- what (theories?) do have to explain all of these observations? You cant bash theories and our lack of observations without showing us what we haven't been observing.

fmfbrestel
5 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2010
BTW, was mysticchakra already taken, or did you intentionally spell it wrong?
dtxx
3 / 5 (2) Jul 13, 2010
I feel like our understanding of the internal structure of the sun is far too weak. The extremely small variations in diameter over time and slow rotation we observe don't really make sense in the context of existing structural models.
Graeme
not rated yet Jul 13, 2010
How could the sun hoover these particles. If they fall in and encounter no friction, they should just come out the other side of the sun. There may be a big cloud of dark matter hanging around outside the sun, not just inside, This should have affected orbits of planets if it extended out far enough, so either it is not there, or confined close in. An experiment that can measure gravity close to the sun could reveal this. Perhaps humans should launch a satellite and drop it in a orbit that gets very close to the sun.
ThanderMAX
not rated yet Jul 14, 2010
Imagine how physicist of the future (say 700 years from now) will think about current understanding of cosmos!

Will it be same as we thought of pre-Copernicus era ?
What do you think?

What if, they found out every thing we know and believe about current cosmos is completely wrong?
gunslingor1
5 / 5 (2) Jul 14, 2010
Everything we ever know about the universe will only ever be valid in the limiting sense. Newtons laws are accurate, but only in limited environments, same goes for general relatively or the standard model. Chance are, everything we'll learn will only be valid for our universe and not others, so there will always be that limiting sense to everything we learn. It's about refining understand, not solving the mysteries.
rahulksharma_nanu
1 / 5 (1) Jul 14, 2010
rutherford atomis mode was discarded by whole world but he may b right during his period coz while he was on research of atom electron collapse in nucleus.may b such elements r present in this universe.dark matter may consist such type of elements which r yet to b known...
fmfbrestel
not rated yet Jul 14, 2010
ThanderMAX -- You begged the question 4 times in that post. Care to actually add something to this discussion, instead of just intentionally adding confusion?
fmfbrestel
not rated yet Jul 14, 2010
For myself, im with gunslingor. Our theories will be superseded by better theories with better observations backing them up. However, the observations we have made are not illusory or deceptive. I do hope though that we are not nearing the end of observational advancement, as that is the only way we will advance to new understanding.
gunslingor1
not rated yet Jul 15, 2010
Or breaking the light speed barrier, when we do that, its a whole new game.
Hesperos
1.5 / 5 (2) Jul 17, 2010
It's not "Dark Matter" (tm) it's Element X!

I just finished reading an article in the Mensa Journal which suggested that astronomers have failed to detect 90% of the matter in the universe because they've been looking at the wrong wavelengths. That type of error seems far more likely to me than the existence of a hypothetical, pervasive "dark matter" which we've somehow overlooked in all of our ground based experiments.
yyz
5 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2010
Hesperos:

You've mentioned "....they've been looking at the wrong wavelengths" in the search for dark matter. Just curious, what are the wavelengths they should be looking at? What will they find at those wavelengths that heretofore has gone undetected?
Shootist
1 / 5 (2) Jul 18, 2010
Imagine how physicist of the future (say 700 years from now) will think about current understanding of cosmos!

Will it be same as we thought of pre-Copernicus era ?
What do you think?


In 700 years, E will still equal MC^2. Though our future selves will have a huge belly laugh contemplating QM.

Hesperos
not rated yet Jul 19, 2010
Hesperos:
You've mentioned "....they've been looking at the wrong wavelengths" in the search for dark matter. Just curious, what are the wavelengths they should be looking at? What will they find at those wavelengths that heretofore has gone undetected?

I don't know what wavelengths should be used. According to the article we've been looking at "the Lyman-alpha light generated by hydrogen atoms" at the expense of equally valid wavelengths (Mensa Bulletin July 2010, p40). "This tactic seemed to work well in the past, but it may also have made scientists miss 90 percent of the galaxies in the universe".
frajo
3 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2010
According to the article we've been looking at "the Lyman-alpha light generated by hydrogen atoms" at the expense of equally valid wavelengths (Mensa Bulletin July 2010, p40). "This tactic seemed to work well in the past, but it may also have made scientists miss 90 percent of the galaxies in the universe".
Is the "Mensa Bulletin" a periodical of those people whose only justification to exist is their living proof of how ridiculous and meaningless IQ measurements are?
hbar_squared
5 / 5 (2) Jul 19, 2010
Imagine how physicist of the future (say 700 years from now) will think about current understanding of cosmos!

Will it be same as we thought of pre-Copernicus era ?
What do you think?

What if, they found out every thing we know and believe about current cosmos is completely wrong?

The pre-Copernican era was defined by theories that were completely disconnected from experiment, theories that relied on elegance and intuition even in the face of conflicting data. Copernicus, Galilleo, and mostly Newton changed that, and codified the scientific method which places observation before theory. Thus, while our current theories may prove to be inaccurate, they will not be wrong.

What they will be surprised about is the incredible level of scientific illiteracy in the general public (especially America).
Skeptic_Heretic
5 / 5 (1) Jul 19, 2010
Is the "Mensa Bulletin" a periodical of those people whose only justification to exist is their living proof of how ridiculous and meaningless IQ measurements are?
It is merely a club for people with a similar attribute to utilize to network through. Don't get all huffy about it.
james11
not rated yet Jul 21, 2010
Gunslingor, Boundaries of the universe? Breaking the light speed barrier? Why do we label anything impossible if we dont absolutely know that it is?

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