A ‘Dark Matter Hurricane’ is Storming Past Earth. It Could Help Scientists Detect the Strange Substance

By Chelsea Gohd | November 12, 2018 4:44 pm
Milky Way collides with another galaxy

The Milky Way is shown on a collision course with a smaller galaxy in this simulation. (Credit: Koppelman, Villalobos; Helmi, Kapteyn Astronomical Institute, University of Groningen, The Netherlands)

There’s a “dark matter hurricane” blowing through our corner of the Milky Way galaxy. Right this second, it’s passing over Earth. And this fast-moving stream could reveal major details about dark matter, a new study finds.

The dark matter is traveling in what is known as the S1 stream. Scientists think that streams like this one are the cosmic debris leftover when small galaxies stray too close to the Milky Way. Our gravitational forces tear the smaller galaxy apart, leaving behind a traveling, elliptical stream of stars, dark matter and other debris.

Dark Matter Hurricane

Dark matter is an elusive material that scientists think, if the Standard Model is correct, exists in large quantities throughout space. Scientists still don’t know what dark matter actually is — there are a number of leading theories, but no one knows for sure. But the S1 stream is predicted to be blowing dark matter past us at about 310 miles per second (500 km/s) right this moment, and that could provide an opportunity for detection.

Galactic Streams

Dozens of such streams have been found in the Milky Way. And like the galaxies they’re stripped from, these streams are typically made of stars and dark matter all traveling along together at the same velocity. “(There are) tons of these streams all over the galaxy, some of them are really huge and you can see them in the sky,” said Ciaran O’Hare of the University of Zaragoza in Spain.

The European Space Agency’s billion-star survey using the Gaia spacecraft is reaching far out into our galaxy to discover and observe stars. And Gaia picked out the S1 stream because its some 30,000 stars have a different chemical composition than those native to our galaxy. And they’re traveling along a similar, elliptical path.

And, while there are over 30 such streams known in our galaxy, S1 still surprised astronomers because our solar system is actually inside this stream. And our paths will intersect for millions of more years. Now, this will not affect our lives or planet in any physical way – there is still only one star (the sun) in our solar system.

But O’Hare and his colleagues calculated the affect of the S1 stream in our part of the galaxy and predicted possible signatures of the dark matter, which could help inform and support efforts to locate and study the elusive substance.

“What we want to do is add the stream as part of our kind of main prediction for the types of signal that should show up in a dark matter experiment,” O’Hare said. According to a statement, current detectors searching for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) (one popular idea of what dark matter might be) probably won’t see anything from S1, but future tech might.

Their study was published in the journal Physical Review D. 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Space & Physics, top posts
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  • kapnlogos

    I suspect dark matter will occupy the same spot in science that phlogiston, and epicycles do now.

    • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

      Add Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar being crushed by Arthur Eddington.

    • Clever Hans

      dark matter/dark energy may end up as just a 21st century version of “the ether”

  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/EquivPrinFail.pdf Uncle Al

    Sakharov criteria define a net matter universe’s vacuum symmetries. Noetherian exact conservation laws and clean maths exclude net matter universes. Accepted theory is empirically sterile.

    “Dark matter” is Milgrom acceleration from vacuum trace chiral anisotropy (Sakharov criteria) leaking angular momentum non-conservation through Noether’s theorem. 40 theory-years fear one undergrad-day, a published experiment (DOI:10.1002/anie.201704221) with a crafted molecule. The Emperor is nekkid. Look.

    • StanChaz

      I prefer “dirty maths”.

  • OWilson

    Humans tend to postulate explanations for the unexplained. Beliefs require little or no empirical evidence, science demands cause and effect to explain observation.

    The main evidence we have for DM is the apparent flat rotation curve of the Adromeda Galaxy, which “appears” to defy the Einstein/Newton long held theory of gravition, and the obvious spiral shape of the galaxy itself. Only rotating and trailing arms give us the classical vortex pattern.

    Other confirmation “appears” to come from galaxy clumping, and early matter formation in the Big Bang, (itself a postulate). Confirmation bias?

    Once a postulate, however tentative, is propose it is automatically given “properties”, that are just as hypothetical. Now it has “hurricanes”.

    (The Grand Designer, has holy ghosts, archangels with harps, and so on! :)

    While it is interesting, it should not be taken as “settled science”. It should take it’s place as an unproved hypothesis.

    “Earlier this year, the most sensitive dark matter experiment to date, LUX, released its results showing no direct evidence for dark matter and failing to confirm potential detections by two groups of experiments, DAMA/Libra and CoGeNT and Super-CDMS.

    Despite this, fellow scientists are pushing forward, determined to measure direct evidence of dark matter. The U.S. Department Of Energy and National Science Foundation are on board with this plan, as they recently announced a new round of funding for 3 upcoming dark matter experiments: LZ (the successor to LUX), SuperCDMS-SNOLAB, and ADMX-Gen2.

    So if we haven’t measured dark matter directly yet, what is keeping researchers on the scent and funding agencies interested?” – Starts With a Bang!

    A valid question, like what keeps the Pope in his palace? :)

    • StanChaz

      And what keeps il Duce Trump in Mar a Lago?
      Laziness and golf.
      Well perhaps we’re safer with him on the golf course all day.
      Onward Space Farce!

  • AbedPeerally

    We have been struggling with DM since over a century and with DE since at least 1998. While an awful lot has been speculated there is not a single scientifically acceptable cause and effect as OWilson says. However there is a valid cause and effect scenario. It will be described in the next months in my coming origin of universe and theory of everything. I believe it will have a major scientific impact. It is a complicated account and would have taken many years to complete. It will be worthwhile.

    • OWilson

      We await your treatise with baited breath! :)

      • AbedPeerally

        Thanks OWilson. I have been on my universe project since 10 years and after patiently writing and publishing my first book to introduce the universe and consciousness, so as to preempt my second detailed account (600 pages) for intellectuals and scientists,and a third brief simplified one of 230 pages for the young and for the general public. I can assure you, in view of the well known fact that humanity and most scientists and intellectuals have been traumatized by theories of everything and of the origin of the universe, my coming book I can very humbly say will be an antidote of the anguish suffered by so many.

  • StanChaz

    OMG!
    A dark matter hurricane!
    Forget about the caravan.
    No doubt that this threat will surely panic both racist Trump and his alt-right friends.

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