Researchers have long believed that dark matter was a byproduct of the big bang, but a new study suggests the mysterious matter might have existed before the cosmic incident occurred.
"The study revealed a new connection between particle physics and astronomy," said the study’s author, Tommi Tenkanen, a postdoctoral fellow in Johns Hopkins University's Department of Physics and Astronomy. "If dark matter consists of new particles that were born before the big bang, they affect the way galaxies are distributed in the sky in a unique way. This connection may be used to reveal their identity and make conclusions about the times before the big bang, too."
"If dark matter were truly a remnant of the big bang, then in many cases researchers should have seen a direct signal of dark matter in different particle physics experiments already," Tenkanen said.
Published in Physical Review Letters, the study offers a way dark matter — which is not directly observable — could be identified by astronomers.
The study uses a new, simple mathematical framework to show “that dark matter may have been produced before the big bang during an era known as the cosmic inflation when space was expanding very rapidly.”
Scientists believe this expansion resulted in an abundance of particles known as scalars, only one of which has been discovered — the famous Higgs boson.
"We do not know what dark matter is, but if it has anything to do with any scalar particles, it may be older than the big bang," Tenkanen said. "With the proposed mathematical scenario, we don't have to assume new types of interactions between visible and dark matter beyond gravity, which we already know is there."
Tenkanen also said new information about dark matter will be forthcoming: "We will soon learn more about the origin of dark matter when the Euclid satellite is launched in 2022. It's going to be very exciting to see what it will reveal about dark matter and if its findings can be used to peak into the times before the big bang."