June 19, 2012
Black Holes Could Help Detect Hypothetical Particle
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com
Scientists have determined that previously undetected particles could be seen as they accumulate around black holes.
Vienna University of Technology scientists have discovered a method to prove the existence of hypothetical "axions," which are particles with a very low mass.
“The existence of axions is not proven, but it is considered to be quite likely”, Daniel Grumiller, a researcher on the project, said in a press release.
Grumiller, along with colleague Gabriela Mocanu, calculated how hypothetical axions could be detected.
The results of the team, based on work by scientists Asmina Arvanitaki and Sergei Dubovsky, show that axions can circle a black hole, similar to electrons circling the nucleus of an atom. Instead of electromagnetic force, it is the gravitational force that acts between axions and the black hole.
An important difference between electrons in an atom and axions around a black hole is that electrons are fermions. This means that two of them will never be in the same state.
Axions are bosons, meaning that many of them can occupy the same quantum state at the same time. These hypothetical particles create a "boson cloud" surrounding the black hole, which continuously sucks energy from the black hole, making the number of axions in the cloud increase.
This boson cloud is not a stable one, according to Grumiller.
“Just like a loose pile of sand, which can suddenly slide, triggered by one single additional grain of sand, this boson cloud can suddenly collapse”, he said in a statement.
This collapse, or "bose-nova," could actually be measured, according to the researchers.
A bose-nova event would make space and time vibrate and emit gravity waves, which could ultimately lead to scientists detecting the hypothetical particles.
Detectors for gravity are in development, and by 2016 they are expected to reach an accuracy at which gravity waves could be precisely detected.
New calculations by scientists show that these gravity waves will be able to provide scientists more details not only about astronomy, but particles as well.
The research was published in the journal Physical Review D.