The dark matter interpretation of the 3.5-keV line is inconsistent with blank-sky observations

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Science  27 Mar 2020:
Vol. 367, Issue 6485, pp. 1465-1467
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaw3772

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X-ray data constrain dark matter decay

Dark matter may consist of previously unknown forms of subatomic particles. An unidentified astronomical x-ray emission line has been interpreted as being caused by the decay of a dark matter particle. If this is correct, then dark matter in the halo of the Milky Way Galaxy should produce a faint emission line across the whole sky. Dessert et al. tested this hypothesis using observations by the XMM-Newton (X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission) space telescope. Analyzing blank-sky regions with a total exposure time of about a year, they found no evidence for the predicted line and set upper limits on the decay rate that rule out the previously proposed dark matter interpretation.

Science, this issue p. 1465


Observations of nearby galaxies and galaxy clusters have reported an unexpected x-ray emission line around 3.5 kilo–electron volts (keV). Proposals to explain this line include decaying dark matter—in particular, that the decay of sterile neutrinos with a mass around 7 keV could match the available data. If this interpretation is correct, the 3.5-keV line should also be emitted by dark matter in the halo of the Milky Way. We used more than 30 megaseconds of XMM-Newton (X-ray Multi-Mirror Mission) blank-sky observations to test this hypothesis, finding no evidence of the 3.5-keV line emission from the Milky Way halo. We set an upper limit on the decay rate of dark matter in this mass range, which is inconsistent with the possibility that the 3.5-keV line originates from dark matter decay.

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