Large amounts of invisible “dark matter” may have been discovered near the sun.
The mysterious substance exerts a gravitational influence on thousands of dwarf stars in our galactic neighbourhood, a study suggests.
Dark matter is thought to make up about 70 per cent of the universe, yet it cannot be seen or detected directly.
Scientists only know it exists because of the way its gravity affects other material.
Our galaxy, the Milky Way, appears to be surrounded by a massive "halo" of dark matter, but now new evidence indicates there are large quantities of it closer to home.
Dr Silvia Garbari, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, said: "We are 99% confident that there is dark matter near the sun. In fact, our favoured dark matter density is a little high.
"If future data confirm this high value, the implications are exciting."
The Swiss scientists measured local dark matter density by studying the positions and movements of thousands of orange K dwarf stars near the sun.
No-one knows what dark matter is made of, but physicists suspect it consists of fundamental particles that interact only very weakly with normal matter.
Professor George Lake, also from the University of Zurich, said: "Knowing the local properties of dark matter is the key to revealing just what kind of particle it consists of."
The research will appear in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.