By Lean Crane
We don’t yet know what dark matter is made of, but the sun might help us find out. If dark matter particles are extremely light, they could bounce off atomic nuclei within the sun and gain enough energy in the process that we could detect them.
Chris Kouvaris at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and his colleagues calculate that particles of this “sub-GeV” dark matter could be accelerated to speeds in excess of 600 kilometres per second in this way.
Dark matter permeates the cosmos, so if these sub-GeV particles exist some of them should be hitting the sun all the time. As they bounce around within the sun, some would gain enough speed to escape towards Earth.
Faster particles are easier to detect because they have more energy, so this solar boost could be the key to making dark matter visible to us.
But the sub-GeV dark matter particles will need to interact with the normal matter in our detectors. For this to happen, they will need a helper particle to mediate that interaction. For example, weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), another leading contender for dark matter, interact with ordinary matter by exchanging subatomic particles called W and Z bosons.
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