Researchers detect possible signal from dark matter

December 11, 2014, Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
A massive cluster of yellowish galaxies, seemingly caught in a red and blue spider web of eerily distorted background galaxies, makes for a spellbinding picture from the new Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. To make this unprecedented image of the cosmos, Hubble peered straight through the center of one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, called Abell 1689. The gravity of the cluster's trillion stars — plus dark matter — acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide lens in space. This gravitational lens bends and magnifies the light of the galaxies located far behind it. Some of the faintest objects in the picture are probably over 13 billion light-years away (redshift value 6). Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 indicates the presence of dark matter. Credit: NASA, N. Benitez (JHU), T. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics/The Hebrew University), H. Ford (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI),G. Hartig (STScI), G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), the ACS Science Team and ESA

Could there finally be tangible evidence for the existence of dark matter in the Universe? After sifting through reams of X-ray data, scientists in EPFL's Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology (LPPC) and Leiden University believe they could have identified the signal of a particle of dark matter. This substance, which up to now has been purely hypothetical, is run by none of the standard models of physics other than through the gravitational force.

Their research will be published next week in Physical Review Letters.

When physicists study the dynamics of galaxies and the movement of stars, they are confronted with a mystery. If they only take into account, their equations simply don't add up: the elements that can be observed are not sufficient to explain the rotation of objects and the existing . There is something missing. From this they deduced that there must be an invisible kind of matter that does not interact with light, but does, as a whole, interact by means of the gravitational force. Called "dark matter", this substance appears to make up at least 80% of the Universe.

Andromeda and Perseus revisited

Two groups have recently announced that they have detected the much sought after signal. One of them, led by EPFL scientists Oleg Ruchayskiy and Alexey Boyarsky, also a professor at Leiden University in the Netherlands, found it by analyzing X-rays emitted by two celestial objects - the Perseus galaxy cluster and the Andromeda galaxy. After having collected thousands of signals from the ESA's XMM-Newton telescope and eliminated all those coming from known particles and atoms, they detected an anomaly that, even considering the possibility of instrument or measurement error, caught their attention.

The signal appears in the X-ray spectrum as a weak, atypical photon emission that could not be attributed to any known form of matter. Above all, "the signal's distribution within the galaxy corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter, that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges," explains Ruchayskiy. "With the goal of verifying our findings, we then looked at data from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and made the same observations," says Boyarsky.

A new era

The signal comes from a very rare event in the Universe: a photon emitted due to the destruction of a hypothetical particle, possibly a "sterile neutrino". If the discovery is confirmed, it will open up new avenues of research in . Apart from that, "It could usher in a new era in astronomy," says Ruchayskiy. "Confirmation of this discovery may lead to construction of new telescopes specially designed for studying the signals from particles", adds Boyarsky. "We will know where to look in order to trace dark structures in space and will be able to reconstruct how the Universe has formed."

Explore further: Glimmer of light in the search for dark matter

More information:

Related Stories

Glimmer of light in the search for dark matter

February 27, 2014

The Leiden astrophysicist Alexey Boyarsky and his fellow researchers may have identified a trace of dark matter that could signify a new particle: the sterile neutrino. A research group in Harvard reported a very similar ...

Physicists suggest new way to detect dark matter

November 18, 2014

For years physicists have been looking for the universe's elusive dark matter, but so far no one has seen any trace of it. Maybe we are looking in the wrong place? Now physicists from University of Southern Denmark propose ...

Mysterious X-ray signal intrigues astronomers

June 24, 2014

( —A mysterious X-ray signal has been found in a detailed study of galaxy clusters using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton. One intriguing possibility is that the X-rays are produced by the ...

Image: Hubble sees spiral in Serpens

September 8, 2014

( —This new NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows a beautiful spiral galaxy known as PGC 54493, located in the constellation of Serpens (The Serpent). This galaxy is part of a galaxy cluster that has been ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

Physicists reveal why matter dominates universe

March 21, 2019

Physicists in the College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University have confirmed that matter and antimatter decay differently for elementary particles containing charmed quarks.

ATLAS experiment observes light scattering off light

March 20, 2019

Light-by-light scattering is a very rare phenomenon in which two photons interact, producing another pair of photons. This process was among the earliest predictions of quantum electrodynamics (QED), the quantum theory of ...

How heavy elements come about in the universe

March 19, 2019

Heavy elements are produced during stellar explosion or on the surfaces of neutron stars through the capture of hydrogen nuclei (protons). This occurs at extremely high temperatures, but at relatively low energies. An international ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

5 / 5 (12) Dec 11, 2014
Pertinent arXiv pre-prints (from Ruchayskiy, Boyarsky, et al):

An unidentified line in X-ray spectra of the Andromeda galaxy and Perseus galaxy cluster

Checking the dark matter origin of 3.53 keV line with the Milky Way center

not rated yet Dec 11, 2014
These growing claims of ESA's XMM-Newton telescope DARK MATTER detection perhaps also build on the Italian underground Dark Matter (DAMA) lab that claimed to have found evidence of dark matter in the form of axxions way back since 2003 and even between 1996-2002. They have since updated their facility again and in 2008 made the same conclusion of dark matter detection based on years of data. Yet a large part of the scientific community strangely continues to ignore them while never offering a real explanation for what has been found. Always talking about how their own experiments will find dark matter first. The DAMA results also seem to be in conjunction with these axxions. It gives a modulation in the signal strength based on a the Earth's position around the sun per month. Even if that is not related i hope they can continue to expand on this ESA telescope data. It seems (fingers crossed) we might finally have the breakthrough and discovery so many people have been waiting for.
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 11, 2014
Publications are nowadays already "news of yesterday". There are plenty of groups who did not see the signal where they should have. The experimental situation has been very carefully explained in Figure 1 of a post by Jester, http://resonaance...nas.html
Dec 11, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (10) Dec 12, 2014
There is evidence of dark matter every time a double slit experiment is performed; it's what waves.

Dark matter has mass. Dark matter physically occupies three dimensional space. Dark matter is physically displaced by the particles of matter which exist in it and move through it.

The Milky Way's halo is not a clump of stuff anchored to the Milky Way. The Milky Way is moving through and displacing the dark matter.

The Milky Way's halo is the state of displacement of the dark matter.

The Milky Way's halo is the deformation of spacetime.

What is referred to geometrically as the deformation of spacetime physically exists in nature as the state of displacement of the dark matter.

A moving particle has an associated dark matter displacement wave. In a double slit experiment the particle travels through a single slit and the associated wave in the dark matter passes through both.

In a double slit experiment it is the dark matter that waves.
Dec 12, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dec 12, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Dec 12, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
1 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2014
Nothingness of space can have dielectric constant measured. Light from very far away turns red. Very very tiny has energy and mass measured by Casimir that boils out of nothing. Suns vanish into nothingness of space as they spiral into oblivion. A spinning weight on your finger wraps faster as it gets closer to your finger. The center of a galaxy is turning at the same time and direction as the stars on the edge. It does not move faster. Nothing should be nothing. Great wonders can be found by looking at nothing.
1.5 / 5 (8) Dec 12, 2014
From this they deduced that there must be an invisible kind of matter that does not interact with light, but does, as a whole, interact by means of the gravitational force.
Which precisely describes the element Helium.
5 / 5 (6) Dec 12, 2014
From this they deduced that there must be an invisible kind of matter that does not interact with light, but does, as a whole, interact by means of the gravitational force.
Which precisely describes the element Helium.

No, it doesn't. Helium interacts with light.
not rated yet Dec 16, 2014
I hope they consulted the moon god and the river god.
Dec 16, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Dec 17, 2014
No, it doesn't. Helium interacts with light.
False. Go back to school.
Dec 17, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Dec 21, 2014
If one reviews the full data on flat disk galaxies (composition) and constant spin rates from center to edge, where the concept of dark matter was initially employed to describe why equations were not describing observational spin rates, one can build a case for new physics beyond the standard model that does not have the need for deep space galaxy cluster x-ray signals etc. that hint toward a new DM particle.

The solution, I suggest, maybe more fundamental but less obvious and it might take us back to a few basic assumptions we have about elementary physics and relativity ...and the possible need for a review and tests of some basic laws under conditions given by flat spinning galaxies.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.