Washington, Nov 20 : Scientists searching for physical evidence for the elusive dark matter might find it in the form of high-energy electrons captured over Antarctica.
According to a report in National Geographic News, the authors of the new study flew a balloon-borne particle collector called the Advanced Thin Ionization Calorimeter (ATIC) over Antarctica.
Circular winds at that latitude allow the balloon to stay aloft for up to 30 days at a time, capturing electrons and measuring their charges, energies, and trajectories.
The ATIC found inflated numbers of high-energy electrons that match the signal expected from the destruction of dark matter.
Dark matter is one of the greatest enigmas which has puzzled astrophysicists from a long time. It is thought to be five times more common than visible matter, but there is no proof of what it is made of.
The existence of dark matter has largely been inferred from its gravitational effects, such as the fact that most galaxies have enough mass to remain as well-defined objects despite having too little visible matter to account for the necessary gravity. A few exotic particles have been suggested as dark matter ingredients.
One of these, named the Kaluza-Klein particle, is predicted to have the same mass as 550 to 650 protons.
When these theoretical Kaluza-Klein particles collide and annihilate, they're expected to produce electrons with energies between 550 and 650 gigaelectron volts, or GeV.
One GeV is roughly the energy locked up in the mass of a single proton, according to Einstein's famous formula E=mc2.
At 620 GeV, the odd energy spike in the Antarctic electrons falls within that range, according to the researchers.
As an alternative theory, the electrons could also reveal the presence of a nearby but mysterious astrophysical object that's bombarding Earth with cosmic rays.
Possibilities include a pulsar, which is the highly magnetic, rotating remnant of a collapsed star, or a microquasar, the luminous, energetic collection of material orbiting a small black hole.