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Where I said dark matter, I say dark energy: researchers reinterpret the “strange signal” detected by XENON1T

The XENON1T, a mammoth cell that acts as a dark matter detector, was known to many for being the instrument capable of detecting the rarest event ever recorded: the death of a xenon-124 atom. Last year, researchers working with him reported that XENON1T had detected a strange signal that they linked to dark matter, but now researchers believe that that was not matter, but dark energy.

Broadly speaking, according to Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, matter is transformed into energy and energy can be transformed into matter (which he expressed with the well-known expression e = mC²). They are believed to exist particles whose mass depends on the environment, or others that can be transformed into other particles, and precisely these types of particles and their possible detection is what is maintaining the debate about that strange “hiccup” that XENON1T had.

The relativity of focusing on the same result

The foundation of this Cuba and its 3,500 liters of liquid xenon it is the possibility of detecting the passage from dark matter to standard matter, something that can happen occasionally and that allows detection. In fact, this project has given joy since its previous phases, since in 2018 what was considered an axion was detected, which without being dark matter is a peculiar and complicated subatomic particle to detect.

It was precisely this that was ultimately assumed to have detected XENON1T last year (specifically, a solar axion). The theory says that the axions would have occurred at a very early time in the universe and could make up the dark matter of the universeHence the conclusion that was finally accepted as a result of the “scare” of the XENON1T.

But these Cambridge researchers argue in their work that “the strange signal” that XENON1T detected could be the first detection of dark energy, so it would also be an important and unprecedented finding. These scientists believe that many solar axions would have been needed to produce the recorded signal and that it fits more than it would have been a dark energy signal and not a particle.

This idea comes from its simulation taking as reference not the solar axions, but the chameleon particles, hypothetical particles that would have an effective mass dependent on the environment. The researchers simulated what would happen if a chameleon particle, produced in a highly magnetic region of the Sun, had passed through XENON1T, and as they show the simulated signal is very similar to the one obtained last year.

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Simulation of how we would see dark matter (if we could). Image: Wang, J. et al

Chameleon particles fit together as the missing piece of the puzzle to explain dark energy because of that theoretical ability to change physical properties with the expansion of the universe. Hence, researchers at the University of Cambridge consider that it could have been an “excess event” related to dark energy.

This curious and thoughtful debate is not closed, and Luca Visinelli himself, co-author of the Cambridge study, points out that “the first thing to check is that [la “extraña señal”] it was not something accidental “and that the XENON1T did indeed detect something. If so, Visinelli assures that future experiments would have similar results even with stronger signals.

For now, XENON1T (already upgraded to XENONnT) remains a candidate to provide information on something as mysterious and seemingly key as dark matter and dark energy. We will see if “the signal” is repeated in the coming years and if it gives enough information so that there can be consensus.

Image | XENON1T