In DepthParticle Physics

Have physicists seen the dying flash of dark matter?

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Science  02 Oct 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6256, pp. 20
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6256.20

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Dark matter, by definition, can't be seen directly—except perhaps when it dies. For years, scientists have scanned the skies for signals given off by the decay or mutual annihilation of these elusive particles, which make up fully 80% of the matter in the universe. They've seen nothing definitive, but physicists are now reporting a new candidate: a peak in x-ray emission at an energy of 3.5 thousand electron volts (keV). After many inconclusive claims, this one may be testable, they and other researchers say, by an upcoming satellite mission. "The 3.5-keV x-ray signal has a real chance of being definitively confirmed as dark matter in a few years, unlike other putative signals currently on the market," says Jonathan Feng, a particle theorist at the University of California, Irvine.

  • * Edwin Cartlidge is a science writer in Rome.