A “dark matter hurricane” is barreling through the Milky Way, sweeping right through our corner of the galaxy. This fast-moving stream of dark matter particles is storming over Earth as we speak and could end up slamming into our planet, reports CNet.
However, there’s no cause for alarm points out the media outlet. In fact, this intriguing cosmic event might set us on course for a major scientific discovery.
This revelation comes from an innovative study published last week in the journal Physical Review D, which argues that the “dark matter hurricane” blowing over our planet could finally lead to our first detection of dark matter particles.
According to the authors — a team of scientists from the University of Zaragoza in Spain — all this dark matter is swirling inside a massive stellar stream, a vestige from a long-dead dwarf galaxy that was absorbed by the Milky Way sometime in its ancient history.
Dubbed S1, this stellar stream was first discovered last year in the data from the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Gaia satellite and is made up of a collection of some 30,000 stars, dark matter, and cosmic debris that floats around the center of our galaxy in an elliptical orbit.
“(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, the lead author of the new study.
The video below, shared by ESA at the beginning of the month, depicts a collision event between the Milky Way (shown in cyan) and another, smaller galaxy (shown in red), revealing how such stellar streams are created.
More than 30 similar stellar streams have been detected in our galaxy, notes Discover magazine. Of all of them, S1 is the only one known to pass directly through our solar system. In fact, all of our planets are traveling through the galaxy inside this stellar stream — which contains a fast-flowing current of dark matter that’s zipping past us at 310 miles per second.
This status quo doesn’t change our physical existence on Earth in any way and has no damaging effect whatsoever. Moreover, it turns out that riding a giant wave of dark matter through the galaxy could have its perks.
The Spanish team have calculated the possible effects of the S1 stellar stream in our neck of the woods and predict that it has potential signatures of dark matter that could finally help us locate the enigmatic substance.
Yes, here's the story of the dark matter hurricane — a cosmic event that may provide our first glimpse of the mysterious, invisible particle.https://t.co/ncWa6YNCFn
— CNET News (@CNETNews) November 13, 2018
As the Inquisitr previously reported, physicists believe that up to 80 percent of the matter that makes up our universe is dark matter. However, this strange, enigmatic substance remains elusive, as no one has been able to detect dark matter particles.
While scientists are still unsure what dark matter is actually made of, there are a few hypotheses that suggest a number of candidate particles. The list includes hypothetical particles such as axions, weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMPs), gravitationally-interacting massive particles (GIMPs), and sterile neutrinos — mysterious particles that have recently been the focus of a ground-breaking experiment, per a previous Inquisitr report.
The “dark matter hurricane” raging over Earth right now might help physicists detect at least one of these particles for the very first time, proposes the recent study. This flow of particles swarming around us in the S1 stellar stream could trip axion detectors spread across the globe, leading to our first proof of “axionic dark matter.”
— Phys.org (@physorg_com) November 13, 2018
“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,” said O’Hare.
And, since S1 is here to stay for a very long time and will cross paths with our solar system for millions of years to come, there is hope that the “dark matter hurricane” traveling inside it could lead to the detection of WIMPs sometime in the future, once our technology becomes more advanced.
“Current detectors looking for weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) — one widely discussed form of dark matter — probably won’t see any effect from S1, but future WIMP detectors might,” shows a commentary on the new study, published in Physics.