Back in January of this year, 3 scientists announced that they had spotted an anomaly in the gamma-ray output of three galactic clusters with the Fermi Large Area Telescope. The Virgo, Coma, and Fomax clusters were putting out more gamma rays than could be accounted for by the usual natural means of pulsars or gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). Not only were the three clusters putting out way more gamma rays than they should, but the source of the radiation extended three degrees out beyond the boundary of the clusters themselves in a region accountable to the theorized halo of dark matter that surrounds galaxies and their clusters.
Enter the Neutrilino (and yes that’s spelled correctly, this is not a Neutrino). The Neutrilino is a theoretical particle that has its place on the suspect list of dark matter. It is a supersymmetric particle that happens to be its own antiparticle, which means it can annihilate itself and release gamma radiation in the process. According to Skymania, a research team from Canterbury University in New Zealand thinks this may well have been what the Fermi Large Area Telescope saw when it witnessed the unusually high gamma-ray emissions.
But before you pop the cork on your special bottle of dark matter discovery champagne, this case isn’t as cut and dry as you’d hope. Oscar Macías-Ramírez and his team in New Zealand decided to run some simulations and found that the observations and simulations matched up with a confidence level higher than that of the recent Higgs Boson announcement. The only problem is, when they went back and factored in for cosmic-rays, that confidence level dropped big time. So maybe this isn’t the cosmic smoking gun for dark matter after all.
Oh well, another day, another cosmic mystery.