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Are Pulsars the answer to the Dark Matter mystery?

Astronomers are still scratching their heads, trying out all sorts of wild ideas to hunt you down. Like this new thing in Physical Review Letters saying if you’re actually these axion thingies, we might catch your leftover glimmer around pulsars.

So, for this whole dark matter business, people are mostly banking on these particles called Weakly Interacting Massive Particles (WIMPs). But hey, there’s also this other player in the game, the axion, that folks are starting to root for. Fun fact, axions weren’t initially thrown into the mix to deal with dark matter; they were more of a solution for some tricky stuff in particle physics.

Okay, so the deal with axions is that they’re these lightweight, no-charge particles that wouldn’t really get chummy with normal stuff or light. Sounds like they could be the perfect match for dark matter, right? They could turn into photons, but the light they’d give off would be so weak and spread out that we can’t even catch a whiff of it.

Also read: Are asteroids the right place to look for the heaviest elements?

Can Dark Matter be found near pulsars?

Check this out, this new thing is saying we might have a shot at catching the leftover shine of those axions. If these little guys are real, they could pop up in crazy strong magnetic fields, like the ones hanging around neutron stars and black holes.

Yeah, the best bet would be to check out those areas near pulsars, ’cause that’s where the action is at. Pulsars, you know, those neutron stars that shoot out crazy energy from their magnetic poles. Those spots would churn out loads of axions, and some of them would break down into light. So, theoretically, the light from pulsars should have traces of this axion party.

So, these guys ran some numbers using a simple model to figure out how much light could come from axion decay and what kind of light it would be.

After that, they played around with some simulations to see how this extra stuff would show up in the radio flashes of those supercharged pulsars. They matched up their little experiment with data from about 27 pulsars nearby to spot any extra radio light that might be a sign of axion decay.

Also read: Asteroid Apophis is hurtling towards Earth, should we be worried?

No luck with Axion so far

Bummer, but those guys came up empty-handed on the axion front. From what they saw, they were able to narrow down the possible mass of axions if they’re hanging around. According to their findings, these axions can’t weigh less than 10-8 electron volts or more than 10-5 electron volts, which is way lighter than even neutrinos.

This finding is cool because it doesn’t jump to the conclusion that axions are definitely dark matter, just that they’re out there somewhere. It’s more like a test for particle physics rather than something about the whole universe, which is why they could be so specific about the mass limit.

Yep, those elusive dark matter particles are still playing hide and seek. But let’s leave the debate about whether they even exist for another day.

Vishal Kawadkar
About author

With over 8 years of experience in tech journalism, Vishal is someone with an innate passion for exploring and delivering fresh takes. Embracing curiosity and innovation, he strives to provide an informed and unique outlook on the ever-evolving world of technology.