Galaxies in the universe are apparently achieving an impossible feat, rotating with such speed the gravity generated by their observable matter is unable to hold them together; they should have torn themselves apart long ago. This leads scientists to believe something invisible is at work, giving these galaxies extra mass, generating the extra gravity they need to stay intact.
This elusive and unknown matter has been dubbed dark matter.
Our first calculations indicate that condensates of d-stars are a feasible new candidate for dark matter
Professor Daniel Watts
Researchers now think a newly identified subatomic particle may have formed the universe’s dark matter immediately after the Big Bang approximately 13.8 billion years ago.
Scientists believe as much as 80 percent of the matter in the universe could be “dark”, despite a near-total lack of understanding about what the elusive substance is.
Nuclear physicists have now suggested dark matter could be made from a newly identified particle known as the d-star hexaquark.
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What is a hexaquark?
Matter can be broken down into molecules, which can be broken down further into atoms and even further into the subatomic particles protons and neutrons.
Then, when you break those down, you get quarks, meaning everything is ultimately been made of quarks.
While neutrons and protons are each made up of three quarks, hexaquarks are made up of six.
Their existence was predicted for decades, and in 2014, researchers were able to confirm the existence of hexaquarks.
Though these exotic particles are made up of more quarks than protons are, hexaquarks are actually much smaller than the more familiar particles.
Hexaquarks also decay far faster than other subatomic particles.
Quarks are also a type of boson particle, meaning that multiple d-star hexaquarks can combine in ways different from how protons and neutrons combine.
Dr Mikhail Bashkanov, a department of physics researcher at the University of York believes hexaquarks could have condensed into dark matter in the extreme conditions following the Big Bang.
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Immediately following that event, the universe was a cooling sea of subatomic particles, “a big pot of soup with quarks,” Dr Bashkanov said.
The new study by Dr Bashkanov and colleague Professor Daniel Watts suggest during this super early period of the universe, d-star hexaquarks could have cooled and expanded into what is known as a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC).
A BEC is an exotic, fifth state of matter that forms when a cloud of atoms or subatomic particles cools to temperatures approaching absolute zero (-273.15 C or -459.67 F).
At these extreme temperatures, particles clump together into a single entity and behave like a single particle.
While hexaquarks decay quickly in a lab, Bashkanov explained that they are much more stable and long-lasting within a neutron star and, the researchers think, possibly also in a BEC.
Professor Watts said: “Our first calculations indicate that condensates of d-stars are a feasible new candidate for dark matter, and this new possibility seems worthy of further, more detailed investigation.
“The result is particularly exciting since it doesn’t require any concepts that are new to physics.”
The pair plan to continue studying hexaquarks to better understand the strange particles and further explore whether they really could be good candidates for dark matter.
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