A dark matter hurricane is hurtling through the Milky Way and may collide with the Earth in near future, providing scientists with an opportunity to get a close-up glimpse of the mysterious particle(s) that make up dark matter.
However, the event is not expected to cause any damage or disruption to Earth.
Dark matter is a hypothetical substance believed to constitute about 27 per cent of the known universe; about 68 per cent is believed to be made up of dark energy, and only the remaining five per cent is known matter, such as atoms and subatomic particles.
Dark matter does not reflect light, and is therefore invisible. It has never been observed directly through any scientific instrument. The only proof in support of its existence is its gravitational effects on known matter.
Dark matter is also thought to be the substance that holds the galaxies together. Scientists are unsure about what makes up the dark matter, but there some potential candidates including axions, gravitationally interacting massive particles, and weakly-interacting massive particles.
The Milky Way is characterised by a large number of stellar streams - gatherings of related stars that were once pieces of a dwarf galaxies or globular clusters. In the past, these galaxies or clusters were torn apart - leaving a stream of stars that now orbit the galactic centre. Scientists believe a stellar stream contain some percentage of dark matter within it (if there is dark matter in the universe).
Last year, scientists discovered one such stellar stream, called S1, using the data gathered by the European Space Agency's Gaia satellite. Astronomers found that S1 is passing directly through the path of our Sun.
Now, a new study conducted by the researchers at the University of Zaragoza, Spain, suggests that the dark matter present in S1 may be traveling at a speed of about 500 kilometres per second, providing an opportunity to detect elusive dark matter particles through special detectors.
Because the S1 stellar stream is passing directly through the path of our Sun, the researchers suggest that the dark matter hurricane will likely cross the path of various instruments set up across the globe to detect these hypothetical particles.
The research team calculated the impact of S1 on the dark matter in our region. They also analysed the density and distribution of the inflowing dark matter.
The team concluded that if dark matter is made up of only "weakly interacting massive particles", then current detectors will likely not be able to detect dark matter from the S1 stream.
The chances are better for axion detectors, the instruments geared to detect much lighter "axionic dark matter" particles. In this case, the energy spectrum from axions will show a broad bump with an additional narrow peak.
The findings of the study are published in the journal Physical Review D.
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