Yes, astronomers suggest it’s very likely a “dark matter hurricane” will slam into the Earth as it speeds through the Milky Way — but it shouldn’t cause any damage. In fact, in the hunt for the mysterious particle (or particles) that makes up dark matter, the “hurricane” may provide our best chance at detection.
Throughout the Milky Way there are a number of stellar streams, gatherings of stars that were once dwarf galaxies or clusters. In ancient history they collided with the Milky Way and were torn apart — leaving a stream of orbiting stars that circle the galactic centre. One such stellar stream, dubbed S1 and discovered last year by scientists examining data from the European Space Agency’s Gaia satellite, passes directly through the path of our sun.
As our solar system speeds through the outer reaches of the Milky Way, it flies through dark matter at around 230 kilometres per second ( around 143 miles per second). A study, published Nov. 7 and led by researchers at the University of Zaragoza, suggests that the dark matter present in the stream may be travelling at double that speed — roughly 500km/s (around 310 miles per second) — giving us a much better chance at detecting dark matter.
Of course, we’re not quite sure what makes up dark matter, but there are a number of candidates including weakly-interacting massive particles (WIMPs), gravitationally interacting massive particles (GIMPs) and axions — hypothetical elementary particles posited by physicists.
Because the S1 stellar stream travels directly through the solar system, the dark matter hurricane is likely to cross the path of various detectors spread across the globe set up to detect these hypothetical particles. The study concedes that current iterations of WIMP detectors will likely not see dark matter from the S1 stream. However, those are geared to detect “axionic dark matter”, based on a hypothetical particle known as an axion.
As dark matter is theorized to make up around 85 percent of the matter in the universe, detection of the particle or particles that make it up would fundamentally change how we look at the universe. So, really, there’s no cause for concern when you hear the term “dark matter hurricane” — in fact, its a good thing.
The only thing it’ll blow is your mind.