Dark matter is possibly the biggest enigma in modern physics. It has a fundamental role in the distribution of matter and the formation of cosmological structures. Still, we know almost nothing about its nature. Repeated attempts by experts to explain it have finished dead ends. However, the scientific community does not give up and sets out to find an answer to this mystery. A recent proposal indicates that dark matter could have a hitherto unknown effect: As paradoxical as it sounds, it could be lighting up the universe.
The science and other stuff to know
A team of astrophysicists from Johns Hopkins University has researched dark matter using data from the LORRI instrument aboard the New Horizons space probe. The finding was published in Physical Review Letters.
The cosmic optical background is the visible light reminiscent of all bright bodies and structures. Although very dim, that remnant light modestly illuminates interstellar space’s darkness. The New Horizons probe, during its visit to Pluton, took data from this background that surprised the researchers. The intensity of the background measured by the instrument was double than expected.
The primary author of the article Jose Bernal and his colleagues proposed an explanation for this anomaly: the excess light could come from axions, a type of particle that until now was hypothesized to have no electrical charge and a tiny mass under certain conditions could behave like dark matter.
The proposal is that the axions could disintegrate into optical photons, explaining the excess light observed by LORRI. The connection between dark matter and axions occurs in a specific energy regime.
Therefore, if we verify that the remaining light is the product of the disintegration of axions, we will have found a mechanism that could also apply somehow to dark matter, according to APS.
Another possibility that experts have is that this excess of optical light is due to galaxies and stars that we cannot see because they are covered by intergalactic and interstellar dust. In any case, there is still not enough evidence to confirm anything.
We need better instruments and experiments to find conclusive evidence. Nevertheless, we are sure that the elusive nature of dark matter phenomena will continue to challenge daring minds.