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Fast-spinning black holes narrow the search for dark matter particles

Astronomy and Space

Fast-spinning black holes narrow the search for dark matter particles

If ultralight bosons exist, they could interact with a black hole under the right circumstances. Quantum theory posits that at a very small scale, particles cannot be described by classical physics, or even as individual objects. This scale, known as the Compton wavelength, is inversely proportional to the particle mass.
As ultralight bosons are exceptionally light, their wavelength is predicted to be exceptionally large. For a certain mass range of bosons, their wavelength can be comparable to the size of a black hole. When this happens, superradiance is expected to quickly develop. Ultralight bosons are then created from the vacuum around a black hole, in quantities large enough that the tiny particles collectively drag on the black hole and slow down its spin.
“If you jump onto and then down from a carousel, you can steal energy from the carousel,” Vitale says. “These bosons do the same thing to a black hole.”
Scientists believe this boson slow-down can occur over several thousand years — relatively quickly on astrophysical timescales.
“If bosons exist, we would expect that old black holes of the appropriate mass don’t have large spins, since the boson clouds would have extracted most of it,” Ng says. “This implies that the discovery of a black hole with large spins can rule out the existence of bosons with certain masses.”
Spin up, spin down
Ng and Vitale applied this reasoning to black hole measurements made by LIGO, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory, and its companion detector Virgo. The detectors “listen” for gravitational waves, or reverberations from far-off cataclysms, such as merging black holes, known as binaries.
In their study, the team looked through all 45 black hole binaries reported by LIGO and Virgo to date. The masses of these black holes — between 10 and 70 times the mass of the sun — indicate that if they had interacted with ultralight bosons, the particles would have been between 1×10-13 electronvolts and 2×10-11 electronvolts in mass.

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