Two known black holes rotate too fast to ever be influenced by the hypothetical particle known as ultralight bosons, proving that, between two certain masses, the particles do not exist, according to new research by an MIT astrophysicist.
“It simply came to our notice then. If they existed, we should not see this, [but] because we’ve seen this very large angular momentum, they don’t exist, ”said Salvatore Vitale, who works at MIT’s Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory, or LIGO.
Ultralight bosons are a hypothetical particle theorized as a billionth of the mass of an electron and probably a form of dark matter – “the mysterious, invisible material that makes up 85 percent of matter in the universe,” according to MIT News. Joined Vitale on the research Ken KY Ng, Otto A. Hannuksela, and Tjonnie GF Li. The work was published in Physical Review Letters, a scientific journal.
The researchers used black holes to search for ultra-light bosons, as quantum theory dictates that all black holes above a certain mass have relatively slow spins, a result of pulling in clouds of electrical bosons that would slow the movement of the black holes. But they found that the two black holes they were observing were turning too fast to be hit by the bosons.
This conclusion led the team to rule out the existence of ultra-light bosons with masses between 1.3×10⁻¹³ electron volts and 2.7×10⁻¹³ electron volts.
Vitale explained the research and subsequent conclusion by the analogy of a rotating carousel.
“The idea is that if you have something rotating, like a carousel … you can show that if you either jump or throw something at the carousel as it spins. If then a piece of the thing you throw at it falls out of the carousel, it can come back with more energy than it had before it hit the carousel, “Vitale said in a telephone interview.” It draws energy from the carousel. So you throw something with very low energy, and it comes back to you with more energy than before … you just slow it down a little bit from its rotational speed. “
Vitale said the findings could help researchers solve some open-ended questions in the field of particle physics.
“In fact there is a much broader set of theories that predict or depend on the existence of these very light particles. One is dark matter. So they could be dark matter. But they could also solve other open problems in particle physics, ”he said.
These findings will allow researchers to continue their search to prove the existence of dark matter by expanding the range of particles they observe, Vitale said.
“We’ll never stop exploring,” he said.
Vitale said his work in the field began as a postdoctoral fellowship in 2012, and he marveled at the rapid expansion of the knowledge base in astrophysics – noting that the first gravitational wave discovered by humans was found in 2015.
“I think it’s incredible, really, in five years we’ve gotten away from this happening for the first time, so far we’re going to get one new source every week,” he said.