Science & Tech

Earth's atmosphere could hold a missing piece of the universe

Earth's atmosphere could hold a missing piece of the universe

Earth's atmosphere could hold a missing piece of the universe


There is an abundance of astrophysical and cosmological evidence that points to the existence of dark matter. From inexplicable rotation curves of certain galaxies, to the growth of the largest structures in the universe. But attempts to explain these observations with alternative formulations have failed.

As a result, many astronomers think dark matter is some unknown form of matter that only rarely interacts with light or with normal matter. But now, the argument that Earth may be swimming through an ocean of dark matter, and the waves within this invisible ocean, may generate detectable radio waves that allow us to understand this part of the universe.

Dark matter may be made of massive particles, but an interesting alternative is that dark matter is actually exceptionally light. Millions of times lighter than the lightest known particles. If this is the case, the dark matter would behave similarly to large waves, rather than appearing as individual point-like bullets.

Now, a recent study has found in rare cases that when dark matter and normal matter interacted enough in models of ultralight dark matter, sizeable amounts of radio waves were produced.

This occurred when the dark matter encountered a plasma and when the frequency of dark matter waves lined up with the frequency of plasma waves. When this happened a resonance would occur, which produced radiation in the form of radio waves.

This new research made one specific exciting recovery, that these waves can be detected in our planet's ionosphere.

The Earth's ionosphere is the thin, hot layer of the upper atmosphere, and consists of a loose collection of charged particles - a plasma. It naturally has waves sloshing through it, and these waves can interact with the waves of hypothetical dark matter that might be washing over Earth.

Researchers found that by using a carefully tuned radio antenna to search for a specific frequency of radio waves over the course of a year, they may be able to detect the radio waves produced by this interaction.

It's still a long shot, and the research is highly theoretical, with it taking years to produce the perfect observation technique to discover these radio waves. But if it works, it would allow us to study one of the most mysterious and complex elements in our universe.

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