Scientists have long been searching for dark matter which scientists hypothesize as responsible for the gravitational effects that bind galaxies as a result of an invisible mass.
Now, University of Leicester researchers claim to have unraveled some of the mysteries of the dark matter with findings that hinted dark matter is consist of exotic particles known as axions.
The late University of Leicester Space Research Centre Director George Fraser and colleagues spotted a curious signal in measurements taken by the European Space Agency's (ESA) x-ray observatory XMM-Newton for a span of 15 years.
The researchers noticed that whenever the spacecraft observes the sunward edge of the Earth's magnetic field, the intensity of the x-ray it recorded increased by about a tenth, something that could not be explained by conventional models of the universe as the intensity of the x-rays in space is supposed to be the same once other x-ray sources such as stars and galaxies have been filtered out.
It was then that the researchers considered other theories one of which seemed to give a fitting explanation for the phenomenon. It suggests that theoretical particles of dark matter known as axions stream from the sun's core and these produce x-ray when they smash into the magnetic field of the Earth.
"It appears plausible that axions - dark matter particle candidates - are indeed produced in the core of the Sun and do indeed convert to X-rays in the magnetic field of the Earth", explained Fraser.
Study researcher Andy Read, from the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy, said that if the model is right, the axions could be responsible for the effects that they are seeing and which could shed light on the component of the dark matter that astronomers and cosmologists believe exists.
"After examining the constituent observations spatially, temporally and in terms of the cosmic X-ray background, we conclude that this variable signal is consistent with the conversion of solar axions in the Earth's magnetic field," the researchers wrote in their study "Potential solar axion signatures in X-ray observations with the XMM-Newton observatory," which was published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society journal on Oct. 20.
The X-ray signal caused by the axions is predicted to be the greatest when observing through the side of the magnetic field that faces the sun because it is where the field is strongest.