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Dark Matter Could Change the Temperature of Exoplanets, Allowing us to Detect it

5 May 2021, 13:19 UTC
Dark Matter Could Change the Temperature of Exoplanets, Allowing us to Detect it
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Ah, dark matter, you continue to allude us. The stuff is incredibly difficult to study. It doesn’t interact with light, so our evidence of it is based upon its gravitational effects on light and visible matter. And the biggest difficulty is that we still don’t know what it is. Efforts to detect dark matter directly have come up empty, as have indirect methods such as looking for evidence of dark matter through things such as excess gamma-rays in the Milky Way. But astronomers continue to think up new ways to detect the stuff, such as a recent study published in Physical Review Letters.

This new study takes an interesting approach. One of the popular ideas for dark matter is that it’s composed of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). These particles would be more massive than known particles such as electrons or protons. Through the weak nuclear force, dark matter particles should decay into lighter particles. While the decay particles could be difficult to observe directly, the study proposes looking for their effect on exoplanets.

Since dark matter and regular matter interact gravitationally, exoplanets could capture a bit of dark matter, which would tend to cluster around their cores. As the ...

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