Dark matter found? Gamma rays at centre of Milky Way promise clue to mystery of universe

‘We may be seeing dark matter for the first time,’ according to astrophysicists

Scientists in Boston have released an image which they say could be the first time dark matter has ever been captured on a Nasa telescope.

The new study of gamma rays captured by the US space agency’s Fermi apparatus picked up a signal which “cannot be explained by other alternatives” – meaning that by process of elimination what we are seeing has a high chance of being the elusive substance.

Dark matter makes up most of the material universe – yet we know very little about what it consists of or how it interacts with everything else.

But by analysing an image of gamma rays coming from the Milky Way, a joint team from Harvard, the University of Chicago and MIT in Boston have been able to pick out a bright core at the centre of our galaxy that is only currently explained by models of dark matter itself.

Experts have speculated for some time that dark matter is most likely to be observed at the centre of the galaxy – large quantities of dark matter attract normal matter, forming a foundation upon which visible structures, such as galaxies, are built.

The team cleared away all gamma rays shown in the original image (left) until what they were left with were rays which can currently only be explained by dark matter The team cleared away all gamma rays shown in the original image (left) until what they were left with were rays which can currently only be explained by dark matter “This is the most compelling signal we've had for dark matter particles – ever,” said Dan Hooper, speaking to New Scientist from the Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois.

“At this point, there are no known or proposed astrophysical mechanisms or sources that can account for this emission,” he said. “That doesn't rule out things that no one's thought of yet, but we've tried pretty hard to think of something without success.”

The team took publicly available images of gamma ray light shot out from the Milky Way and, piece by piece, removed every pixel that could be explained by a known phenomenon like a supernova or particles colliding with interstellar gas.

“Our case is very much a process-of-elimination argument. We made a list, scratched off things that didn't work, and ended up with dark matter,” said co-author Douglas Finkbeiner, a professor of astronomy and physics at Harvard.

One possible theory suggests that dark matter is made up of brilliantly named Weakly Interacting Massive Particles – or Wimps – which would collide to produce gamma rays at the energies detected by the Fermi telescope.

Tracy Slatyer, a theoretical physicist at MIT, said: “This is a very exciting signal, and while the case is not yet closed, in the future we might well look back and say this was where we saw dark matter annihilation for the first time.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Technician - 1st Line

£19000 - £21000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPOR...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: The SThree group is a world lea...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London