Astrophysicist’s research could provide a hint in the search for dark matter | Science & Technology

Dark matter is one of science’s greatest mysteries. Although it is believed to make up about 85 percent of the cosmos, scientists know very little about its fundamental nature. Research by Clemson University postdoctoral fellow Alex McDaniel provides some of the most stringent constraints on the nature of dark matter yet. It also revealed a small hint of a signal that, if real, could be confirmed in the next decade or so.

Dark matter is one of science’s greatest mysteries.

It doesn’t absorb, reflect or emit light, so we can’t see it. But its presence is implied by the gravitational effects it appears to have on galaxies.

Although dark matter makes up about 85 percent of the cosmos, scientists know very little about its fundamental nature.

Theories abound, and research by Clemson University postdoctoral fellow Alex McDaniel provides some of the most stringent constraints on the nature of dark matter yet.

His research also reveals a small hint of a signal that, if real, could be confirmed sometime in the next decade or so.

“With data collection and new discoveries in the future, this small hint could potentially turn into a very concrete detection of a dark matter model,” McDaniel said.

Detecting dark matter would be groundbreaking.

“Dark matter is one of the most important things in astrophysics, and we know next to nothing about it. Discovering it will be a tremendous breakthrough,” said Marco Ajello, an associate professor in the Clemson Department of Physics and Astronomy and McDaniel’s adviser. “Whoever discovers may win a Nobel Prize. It’s that big.”

In this work, McDaniel and collaborators were searching dwarf galaxies for dark matter that self-annihilates into ordinary matter and gamma rays, a form of light at the highest energy levels. Dwarf galaxies are ideal for study because they are small, rich in dark matter and mostly lack other astrophysics phenomena such as gas, dust and supernova that could contaminate the findings.

“We look for these because,…

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