Study reveals a new way to hunt for dark matter

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Imagine you’re trying to find something that you can’t see, touch, or hear. That’s what scientists are doing with dark matter, a mysterious substance that makes up about 27% of the universe.

Unlike stars and planets that we can observe, dark matter doesn’t emit light or energy, making it extremely hard to find. But why is finding dark matter so important?

It plays a crucial role in how galaxies form and move, but despite its importance, we know very little about it.

To solve this cosmic mystery, a team of researchers from the University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University came up with a new idea.

They thought of using a special kind of light measuring tool, much like a very advanced version of tools we already use to study space, to look for tiny clues that dark matter exists.

Dark matter could be made of various particles, some of which are incredibly light and hard to detect. Scientists are particularly interested in two types: axions and dark photons.

These particles barely interact with the stuff our world is made of, which is why they’re so difficult to find.

However, they have a unique feature: they can “wave” together in sync over huge distances, like fans doing a wave in a stadium. This wave-like behavior gives researchers a special opportunity to detect them.

The researchers named their new tool GALILEO, after the famous astronomer. GALILEO is designed to catch a very faint signal that these dark matter particles might produce – a kind of tiny electric field that oscillates. This is different from most searches that look for magnetic signals.

Here’s how GALILEO works: it uses a laser beam split into two paths, one of which passes through a special material. If dark matter particles are around, they will cause a tiny change in this material’s properties, affecting the laser light’s path.

When the two paths of laser light come back together, any difference between them could signal the presence of dark matter.

To make sure GALILEO is as sensitive as possible to these potential dark matter signals, the researchers plan to use some of the same advanced techniques that have been developed for gravitational wave detectors.

These include special optical setups that make the laser path effectively longer and more sensitive to changes.

The exciting part is that GALILEO is not a huge, room-sized experiment. It’s small enough to fit on a table, making it easier to manage and adjust. The researchers are hopeful that with GALILEO, they can start to uncover the secrets of light dark matter particles.

Even though GALILEO is still in the planning stages, the researchers are optimistic. They are working on figuring out the best setup to catch these elusive dark matter signals.

This includes figuring out the best materials to use and how to minimize other noise that could hide the signal they’re looking for.

The discovery of dark matter would not just be a win for science; it would be a monumental step in understanding the universe. It could help explain the structure of galaxies and give insights into the fundamental laws of physics.

GALILEO is a promising step toward solving one of astronomy’s biggest mysteries, offering a new way to search for the unseen forces that shape our universe.

The research findings can be found in Physical Review Letters.

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