NASA’s Chandra satellite detects distinct X-ray signal

This observation can help the scientists in proving the existence of dark matter in the universe.

Feb 9, 2017 10:02 IST
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The US space agency NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory in February 2017 detected a very strange and distinctive X-ray signal from the Milky Way galaxy. This observation can help the scientists in proving the existence of dark matter in the universe.

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A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Yale Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics in the US observed the energy spectrum of X-rays coming out from the mysterious source.

Researchers observed extra photons with an energy of about 3500 electron volts in the spectra. While probing the spectrum, researchers concluded that the production of X-ray photons with particular energy level could have been the result of decay of dark matter.

Scientists have recorded such energy levels in the past, but they were not sure that the bump or line created by photons was just an instrumental artefact or something else.

As per researchers, around 80 percent mass of universe is made up of dark matter itself. As per its name, the matter is dark and cannot be seen. However, scientists have felt its presence through the gravitational tug it exerts on stars within galaxies.

For years, physicists have been trying to detect particles of dark matter directly by intercepting them using instruments on Earth. It is this latest research that targets relatively light particles of dark matter.

Esra Bulbul of the Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) was the first scientist to spot an anomalous line at 3.5 keV, while examining the X-ray spectra of large numbers of galaxy clusters in 2014.

About NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory

• It is a telescope specially designed to detect X-ray emission from very hot regions of the Universe like exploded stars, clusters of galaxies, and matter around black holes.
• As X-rays are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere, therefore Chandra is positioned above the Earth's atmosphere up to an altitude of 139000 km in space.
• The Smithsonian's Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge controls Chandra's science and flight operations.

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