The hunt for elusive dark matter just got a bit more interesting. Scientists from EPFL’s Laboratory of Particle Physics and Cosmology and Leiden University believe they spotted an unusual X-ray signal that could be from a particle of dark matter.

A hypothetical matter

What is dark matter? As scientists study the cosmos and the movement of everything in it from stars to galaxies, they run into a problem. The equations don’t add up if only visible matter is taken into account. All of the visible matter can’t explain the rotation of stars and gravitational forces. There has to be some other force at play.

Enter dark matter. Dark matter is described as invisible and not interacting with light. But, it does interact through gravitational forces. Scientists believe this force makes up more than 80% of the universe.

X-Rays from Perseus and Andromeda

The unusual X-ray signals were discovered to be coming from two areas – the Andromeda galaxy and the Perseus galaxy cluster. Thousands of x-ray signals were collected by researchers using the ESA’s XMM-Newton telescope. As they combed through the signals, they found an anomaly that surprised them.

The signal was described as “weak” in the X-ray spectrum and from an “atypical photon emission that could not be attributed to any known form of matter.”

Oleg Ruchayskiy, an EPFL scientist who led the team who discovered the signal, described the signal in a statement. “The signal’s distribution within the galaxy corresponds exactly to what we were expecting with dark matter, that is, concentrated and intense in the center of objects and weaker and diffuse on the edges,” explains Ruchayskiy.

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“With the goal of verifying our findings, we then looked at data from our own galaxy, the Milky Way, and made the same observations,” says Alexey Boyarsky, an EPFL scientist and professor at Leiden University.

Check out the video below with EPFL scientists talking about their discovery.

If confirmed, this discovery would be huge. “It could usher in a new era in astronomy,” according to Ruchayskiy. New telescopes could be designed to look specifically for dark matter.

Physics would also be a huge area that would benefit from confirmation of the potential dark matter signal.

Now, we wait for additional scientists to confirm this discovery.

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