Gamma rays shining from the center of the Milky Way could be the result of dark matter particles colliding, scientists say. If so, the signal, gleaned from NASA’s Fermi space telescope, would mark the first-ever indirect detection of the particles that make dark matter, the stealthy and elusive substance that contributes most of the matter in the universe.
In theory, the amount of unseen dark matter far exceeds the regular matter in stars, galaxies and us, but it has been impossible to measure directly. Researchers have seen hints of a dark matter signal from Fermi before, but the new analysis provides the strongest case to date for a pattern that cannot be easily explained by other galactic activity. The signal, if it is from dark matter, would indicate a new type of subatomic particle, and possibly even a new force in the universe. “I would consider it currently the most exciting signal that we have that could actually be due to dark matter,” physicist Rafael Lang of Purdue University, who was not involved in the study, said Saturday at the American Physical Society April meeting here.