A 'Dark Matter Hurricane' Will Pass By Our Solar System, and Scientists Are Excited

Tuesday, 13 November 2018 - 1:53PM
Physics
Astronomy
Space
Tuesday, 13 November 2018 - 1:53PM
A 'Dark Matter Hurricane' Will Pass By Our Solar System, and Scientists Are Excited
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A 'dark matter hurricane' sounds like something out of a comic book, but it's nevertheless real (as far as we know—dark matter is a tricky subject) and passing near our solar system soon. Though no one is any danger, the hurricane may offer scientists a rare opportunity to study the nature of dark matter and maybe even figure out what kind of particles make up the bulk of it.

The source of the 'hurricane' is a "stellar stream" called S1, a string of stars that were part of a dwarf galaxy that collided with the Milky Way a long time ago. This collection of stars is set to cross the path of our Sun, which means we'll be closer enough to pick up on a large, fast-moving bunch of dark matter that's predicted to hang around the S1 stream. It's estimated that this clump of dark matter will be moving at around 310 miles per second, which means sensors here on Earth have a better chance at spotting some of it.

There are a couple different theories surrounding the particles that compose dark matter: some claim that they're WIMPs, or weakly interacting massive particles, while others characterize them as GIMPs, gravitationally interacting particles. Another model involves the axion, a hypothetical particle that is light and electrically neutral. Researchers have already built detectors that should be able to pick up on these kinds of particles, but the current generation of WIMP-detecting equipment may not be able to take advantage of the upcoming S1 stream, though axion-detecting equipment might.

No matter what scientists are able to glean from the upcoming 'dark matter hurricane,' neither the S1 stream nor the dark matter will affect the Earth or our Sun, so there's no need to call NASA's Planetary Defense Coordination Office.
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