Nav: Home

Proving what can't be seen

April 16, 2018

University of Miami astrophysicist Nico Cappelluti studies the sky. An assistant professor in the Physics Department, Cappelluti is intrigued by the cosmic phenomena of super massive black holes, the nature of dark matter, and active galactic nuclei, which is the very bright light source found at the center of many galaxies.

Recently, Cappelluti published findings that could give insight on a subject scientists and astrophysicists have been investigating for decades: What is dark matter and where does it come from?

According to Esra Bulbul, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and co-author in Cappelluti's study, about 95 percent of the mass in the universe is made up of material that is unknown and invisible to scientists, that is dark matter.

Cappelluti's study, published in The Astrophysical Journal and entitled, "Searching for the 3.5 keV line in the deep fields with Chandra: the 10 MS observations," examines an interesting light source that was captured by four different telescopes each pointing in a different direction in the sky. The source of light is unfamiliar and unrecognizable to scientists and has caused quite a stir in the world of astrophysics. Bulbul also found the emission line while studying clusters of galaxies in 2014.

"We use special telescopes to catch X-ray light in the sky, and while looking at these X-rays, the telescopes noticed an unexpected feature and captured a spectrum of light, which is not produced by any known atomic emission," said Cappelluti. "This emission line is now called the 3.5 kiloelectron volt (keV). One interpretation of this emission line is that it's produced by the decay of dark matter."

The four telescopes that captured the 3.5 keV emission were NASA's NuSTAR telescope, the European Space Agency's (ESA) XMM-Newton telescope, the Chandra telescope, and the Suzaku telescope from Japan.

"This 3.5 keV emission line is unidentified. We truly don't know what it is," said Bulbul. "But one theory is that it could be a sterile neutrino, which is also known as decaying dark matter. What is truly interesting about Dr. Cappelluti's study is that he found this 3.5 keV line within our own galaxy."

"If confirmed, this will tell us what dark matter is and could be one of the major discoveries in physics," said Cappelluti. "We know that the Milky Way is surrounded by dark matter. Think of it as if we are living in a bubble of dark matter. But we also want to have the statistical certainty of our detection, so now we are putting together a Sterile Neutrino Task Force."

This fall, several scientists from around the world, including Harvard's Bulbul, plan to gather at the University of Miami to organize a massive data-mining project to investigate and research this 3.5 keV emission line.

"The goal now is to continue to look at the sky until we obtain more powerful operating telescopes with better resolution, which won't be ready until 2021, and share and analyze data from other scientists who are trying to uncover the secrets of dark matter," said Bulbul.
-end-
In addition to Cappelluti and Bulbul, other coauthors on the paper include Francesca Civano and Randall K. Smith, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics; Adam Foster, Eric Miller, and Mark W. Bautz from the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics & Space Research at MIT; and Priyamvada Natarajan and Megan C. Urry, both from Yale University.

University of Miami

Related Dark Matter Articles:

Does dark matter annihilate quicker in the Milky Way?
Researchers at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai have proposed a theory that predicts how dark matter may be annihilating much more rapidly in the Milky Way, than in smaller or larger galaxies and the early Universe.
Origin of Milky Way's hypothetical dark matter signal may not be so dark
A mysterious gamma-ray glow at the center of the Milky Way is most likely caused by pulsars.
A new look at the nature of dark matter
A new study suggests that the gravitational waves detected by the LIGO experiment must have come from black holes generated during the collapse of stars, and not in the earliest phases of the Universe.
Dark matter may be smoother than expected
Analysis of a giant new galaxy survey, made with ESO's VLT Survey Telescope in Chile, suggests that dark matter may be less dense and more smoothly distributed throughout space than previously thought.
Supercomputer comes up with a profile of dark matter
In the search for the mysterious dark matter, physicists have used elaborate computer calculations to come up with an outline of the particles of this unknown form of matter.
Mapping the 'dark matter' of human DNA
Researchers from ERIBA, Radboud UMC, XJTU, Saarland University, CWI and UMC Utrecht have made a big step towards a better understanding of the human genome.
Reconciling dwarf galaxies with dark matter
Dwarf galaxies are enigmas wrapped in riddles. Although they are the smallest galaxies, they represent some of the biggest mysteries about our universe.
Did gravitational wave detector find dark matter?
When an astronomical observatory detected two black holes colliding in deep space, scientists celebrated confirmation of Einstein's prediction of gravitational waves.
Dark matter does not contain certain axion-like particles
Researchers at Stockholm University are getting closer to corner light dark-matter particle models.
SDU researchers present a new model for what dark matter might be
There are indications that we might never see the universe's mysterious dark matter.

Related Dark Matter Reading:

Dark Matter: A Novel
by Blake Crouch (Author)

Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
by Simone Browne (Author)

Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora
by Sheree Renée Thomas (Editor)

Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe
by Lisa Randall (Author)

Dark Matter: Art and Politics in the Age of Enterprise Culture (Marxism and Culture)
by Gregory Sholette (Author)

Introduction To Particle Dark Matter, An (Advanced Textbooks in Physics)
by Stefano Profumo (Author)

The 4 Percent Universe: Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality
by Richard Panek (Author)

Chandra's Cosmos: Dark Matter, Black Holes, and Other Wonders Revealed by NASA's Premier X-Ray Observatory
by Wallace H. Tucker (Author)

Dark Matter: The Private Life of Sir Isaac Newton: A Novel
by Crown

A Very Very Very Dark Matter (Faber Drama)
by Martin McDonagh (Author)

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Approaching With Kindness
We often forget to say the words "thank you." But can those two words change how you — and those around you — look at the world? This hour, TED speakers on the power of gratitude and appreciation. Guests include author AJ Jacobs, author and former baseball player Mike Robbins, Dr. Laura Trice, Professor of Management Christine Porath, and former Danish politician Özlem Cekic.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#509 Anisogamy: The Beginning of Male and Female
This week we discuss how the sperm and egg came to be, and how a difference of reproductive interest has led to sexual conflict in bed bugs. We'll be speaking with Dr. Geoff Parker, an evolutionary biologist credited with developing a theory to explain the evolution of two sexes, about anisogamy, sexual reproduction through the fusion of two different gametes: the egg and the sperm. Then we'll speak with Dr. Roberto Pereira, research scientist in urban entomology at the University of Florida, about traumatic insemination in bed bugs.