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Gravitational waves could reveal ultralight bosons lurking near black holes

5 Mar 2019, 15:55 UTC
Gravitational waves could reveal ultralight bosons lurking near black holes
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Hypothetical particles called ultralight bosons could be spotted lurking near supermassive black holes by the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna (LISA), according to calculations by a team of astrophysicists. LISA is a space-based gravitational-wave detector that should be operational in 2034, when the team says it could determine whether ultralight bosons are a component of dark matter.
According to the conventional model of the universe, about 85% of its mass is dark matter. This mysterious substance neither emits nor absorbs electromagnetic radiation and physicists have little idea of its composition. One possibility is that dark matter is made of ultralight bosons such as axions, which are not part of the Standard Model of particle physics. Now Tjonnie Li of the Chinese University of Hong Kong and an international team have shown that LISA may be able to detect or rule out the existence of ultralight bosons by looking at gravitational wave signals from supermassive black holes.
If ultralight bosons exist, calculations suggest that clouds of them will form outside the event horizon of spinning supermassive black holes, which reside at the centres of many galaxies. Like other particles, these hypothetical ultralight bosons must have a Compton wavelength, which is a quantum-mechanical ...

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