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Earth Is Passing Through A Dark Matter “Hurricane” Right Now

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Scientists think that a “storm” of dark matter is moving away from the Sun and could be seen here on Earth.

The study, conducted by Ciaran O’Hare of the University of Zaragoza in Spain, was published in Physical Review D and looked at the S1 stream, a cluster of neighbouring stars travelling in the same direction. According to APS Physics, these are “believed to be the remnants of a dwarf galaxy that was eaten by the Milky Way billions of years ago.”

The S1 stream of 30,000 stars was found by the ESA’s Gaia spacecraft last year. Gaia is mapping a billion stars in our galaxy. About 30 of these streams have been found in our galaxy. Each one is the result of a collision between two other streams.

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S1 is especially interesting because it is moving by us at about 500 kilometers per second (310 miles per second). Experts say that this could have an effect on the dark matter that is all around us.

“Current detectors probing for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), a widely discussed form of dark matter, are unlikely to see any effect from S1,” the statement said, “but future WIMP detectors may.”

All galaxies are thought to have started in a huge halo of dark matter, which we can’t see and doesn’t interact with regular matter. But the scientists found that about 10 billion solar masses of dark matter from the initial dwarf galaxy were moving down S1.

A star stream passing past our Sun is depicted. Jon Lomberg/NASA/C. O’Hare

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“As the S1 stream ‘hits the Solar System slap in the face’, the authors write, its counter-rotating structure will dramatically increase the amount of dark matter appearing to come from the same patch of sky as the standard dark matter wind,” reports Cosmos Magazine.

“Indeed, it should generate a ring-like structure around this wind, which directed dark matter detectors… may easily detect in the future.”

ScienceAlert also reported that axions, theorised particles 500 million times lighter than an electron that could represent dark matter, could be detected in the stream. “[T]hese ultralight particles, which humans cannot see, could be transformed to visible photons in the presence of a strong magnetic field,” they said.

Despite repeated efforts, no direct discovery of dark matter has ever been made. However, this “storm” may present an exciting opportunity to do so.

Reference(s):  Physical Review DCosmos Mag and ScieneAlert

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