While investigating the mysterious radiation haze at the core of the Milky Way, a team of astronomers discovered what they say are signals of dark matter. The study is among the first to propose a discovery of this magnitude.
The research was carried out using the European Space Agency's (ESA) Planck Telescope, which is very well suited for this type of investigations. Its keen detectors were until now used to analyze the cosmic microwave background (CMB), the relic radiation left behind after the Big Bang.
A careful analysis of Planck data led researchers at the University of Copenhagen's Niels Bohr Institute to conclude that the radiation haze at the center of our galaxy could have not been produced by baryonic (regular) matter, and that dark matter may have played a role.
The latter is a hypothetical measure introduced in the Big Bang cosmological model, in order to explain why galaxies appear to have more mass than they actually do. Dark matter is believed to interact with baryonic matter exclusively through gravity.
Astrophysicists say that it could be made up of so-called Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMP), which are their own antiparticles. When two WIMP meet, they annihilate each other, and release a significant volume of radiations, Space
The radiation at the core of the Milky Way “cannot be explained by the structural mechanisms in the galaxy, and it cannot be radiation from supernova explosions,” NBI investigator and study coauthor, Pavel Naselsky, said in a recent statement.
“We believe that this could be proof of dark matter. Otherwise, we have discovered [an] absolutely new (and unknown for physics) mechanism of acceleration of particles in the galactic center,” he wrote.
The mysterious haze was first discovered in 2004, by NASA's famous Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) spacecraft, which also studied the CMB. For the past 8 years, astronomers have been trying to determine what causes the haze.
“We know from theoretical predictions that the concentration of dark matter particles around the center of galaxies is very high, and we have a strong argument they can collide there and in the collision electrons and positrons are formed,” Naselsky went on to say.
“These electrons and positrons start to rotate around the magnetic field at the center of the galaxy and in doing so produce this very unusual synchrotron radiation,” he concluded.
A paper detailing the study will be published in an upcoming issue of the esteemed scientific journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.