Jupiter expeditions can also help in the search for dark matter

In a recent study published in Journal of High Energy PhysicsTwo researchers from Brown University explain how data from previous missions to Jupiter can help scientists examine dark matter, one of the most mysterious phenomena in the universe. The reason for the selection of previous Jupiter missions is due to the vast amount of data collected about the largest planet in the solar system, most notably from the orbits of Galileo and Juno. The elusive nature and composition of dark matter still eludes scientists, both figuratively and literally, because it does not emit any light. So why do scientists continue to study this mysterious – and completely unseen – phenomenon?

“Because they exist and we don’t know what they are!” exclaims Dr. Lingfeng Li, a postdoctoral researcher at Brown University and lead author of the paper. “There is strong evidence coming from very different data sets that point to dark matter: the cosmic microwave background, stellar motions within galaxies, gravitational lensing effects, etc. In short, it behaves like some cold, non-reactive (and therefore dark) dust at large length scales, in While its nature and potential interactions within a smaller scale are still unknown. It must be something entirely new: something distinct from our baryonic matter.”

A remarkable image of Jupiter’s Great Red Spot along with its violent southern hemisphere taken by NASA’s Juno spacecraft as it passed near the gas giant planet. (Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Southwest Research Institute/Malin Space Science Systems/Kevin M. Gill)

In the study, the researchers discuss how electrons trapped within Jupiter’s massive magnetic field and radiation belt can be used to probe dark matter and the dark medium that exists between the so-called dark sector and our visible world. They deduced three scenarios for electrons trapped within Jupiter’s radiation belts: fully trapped, semi-trapped, and non-trapped electrons. Their results showed that measurements recorded from the Galileo and Juno missions indicate that the electrons produced could be either completely or nearly trapped within Jupiter’s inner radiation belts, ultimately contributing to energetic electron flows.

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One goal of this study was to provide an initial effort to use data from a past, active, and future mission to Jupiter to examine new physics beyond the traditional model of particle physics. While the data for this study were collected from the years-long missions of the Galileo and Juno spacecraft to Jupiter, Lee doesn’t think this type of study could be done using data from other long-range missions to other planets, such as Saturn. and its historical mission Cassini.

“First of all, Jupiter is much heavier than Saturn,” he explains to me. “Its escape velocity is about twice that of Saturn, which means that the rate of dark matter capture is greatly improved at Jupiter. In addition, Jupiter does not have an important main ring, and electrons can be trapped for a long time before they are absorbed by the ring material. Other celestial bodies in Solar systems are very small (like Earth). The Sun is an interesting target, but its magnetic field is very counter-intuitive. We don’t know how to interpret solar data yet, but it deserves further study.”

While Lee said they have not decided what to do next in terms of future studies, the paper concludes with recommendations for future Jupiter missions to extend the scope of particle physics while providing more accurate measurements of energetic electron flows discussed in this paper.

What new discoveries will we make about dark matter in the coming years? Only time will tell, and that’s why we are the science!

As always, keep dong informed and keep looking!

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