Searching For Ultralight Bosons With Gravitational Waves

Scientists have proposed a way to use gravitational waves to detect the existence and properties of ultralight bosons.

AsianScientist (May 8, 2019) – An international team of researchers has discovered a method that relies on gravitational waves to verify the existence of a hypothetical type of particle known as the ultralight boson. The results are published in journal Nature Astronomy.

Dark matter refers to invisible matter that makes up around 85 percent of all the matter in the universe. Scientists have strong evidence for the existence of dark matter, yet the current standard model of particle physics does not offer any explanation for it.

Scientists have proposed that dark matter could be composed of ultralight bosons which are thought to exhibit quantum mechanical effects on a large astronomical scale. As such, the particle could couple to black holes to create massive clouds which are intertwined with black hole properties.

To detect ultralight bosons, researchers led by Professor Li Tjonnie at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, China, explored the use of gravitational waves—ripples in the fabric of space-time—to search for ultralight bosons.

When a smaller black hole orbits a more massive black hole with a particle cloud, its orbital trajectory is affected by the gravitational pull of the black hole and the friction of the cloud. Gravitational waves from such systems hence encode information on both the cloud and the black hole, which would allow scientists to study the ultralight boson in detail.

“Our research shows that a single gravitational wave measurement can be used to verify the existence of ultralight bosons by model selection, rule out alternative explanations for the signal, and measure the boson’s mass,” Li said.

Forthcoming gravitational-wave detectors such as Laser Interferometer Space Antenna may be able to discover the ultralight boson and write a new chapter in the understanding of fundamental particles of nature, the researchers added.

The article can be found at: Hannuksela et al. (2019) Probing the Existence of Ultralight Bosons With a Single Gravitational-wave Measurement.


Source: Chinese University of Hong Kong; Photo: Antonio Mati.
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