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Researchers believe that space atomic clocks could help in the discovery of dark matter

Studying atomic clocks onboard spacecraft that orbit Mercury and are very close to the sun could be a trick to revealing the nature of dark matter, according to Nature Astronomy. New research suggests.

Dark matter makes up more than 80% of the mass of the universe, but has so far eluded detection on Earth, despite decades of experimental efforts. A key component of this search is an assumption about the local dark matter density, which determines the number of dark matter particles passing the detector at a given time and thus the experimental sensitivity.

In some models, this density could be much higher than normally assumed, and dark matter might be more concentrated in some regions than others.

An important class of experimental searches are those that use atoms or nuclei, as they have achieved incredible sensitivity to dark matter signals. This is because when dark matter particles have very small masses, they cause oscillations in the constants of nature. These variations, such as electron masses and electromagnetic force interaction strengths, modify the transition energies of atoms and nuclei in predictable ways.

These signals can be detected by atomic clocks that work by carefully measuring the frequencies of photons emitted at various state transitions of atoms. Ultralight dark matter near the clock experiment can alter these frequencies, as dark matter oscillations slightly increase or decrease photon energy.

An international team of researchers from the Kavli Institute of Physics and Mathematics (Kavli IPMU) at the University of California, Irvine, consisting of Project Researcher Joshua Eby, Postdoctoral Researcher Yu-Dai Tsai, and University Professor Marianna S. Safronova. The state of Delaware saw potential in these vibration signals. They argued that certain regions of the solar system between the orbit of Mercury and the Sun may have very high densities of dark matter, suggesting they are highly sensitive to oscillatory signals.

“The more dark matter there is around the experiment, the greater these oscillations, so the local dark matter density becomes very important when analyzing the signal,” he said. increase.

The exact density of dark matter near the Sun is unknown, but researchers argue that even relatively insensitive searches could yield important information.

The density of the solar system’s dark matter is limited only by information about the orbits of the planets. In the region between the Sun and Mercury, the closest planet to the Sun, there are few constraints. For example, measuring spacecraft with these models could quickly reveal the world’s leading dark matter boundaries. The technology to test their theory already exists. According to Eby, the NASA Parker Solar Probe, which has been operating with shielding since 2018, has traveled closer to the sun than any human-made craft in history, and is currently operating inside Mercury’s orbit, with plans to move even closer to the sun within a year.

“Long-distance space missions, including possible future missions to Mars, will necessitate exceptional timekeeping, which atomic clocks in space would provide. A future mission with shielding and a trajectory similar to the Parker Solar Probe, but carrying an atomic clock apparatus, could be enough to carry out the search “Eby stated.

News Summary:

  • Researchers believe that space atomic clocks could help in the discovery of dark matter
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