The latest data has eliminated any possibilities of strange new particles being detected in a detector for dark matter.
At the International Conference on Identification of Dark Matter, which was held in Vienna on July 22nd, scientists revealed that the XENONnT experiment did not detect any more glitches that could indicate the existence of new particles or another occurrence. This finding comes as a follow-up to an intriguing result that was found in the experiment’s predecessor.
At the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy, an experiment called XENONnT (pronounced “xenon n ton”) employs 5.9 metric tons of liquid xenon to seek for dark matter, a mysterious component that has only been detected so far through the gravitational impact it has on the universe (SN: 10/25/16). The detector has been constructed to seek for particles of dark matter that collide with the nuclei of xenon atoms, which causes the atoms to rebound. However, the detector is also capable of detecting electrons that are recoiling.
In the year 2020, a scaled-down version of the experiment known as XENON1T reported discovering a bigger quantity of ricocheting electrons than was anticipated (SN: 6/17/20). According to Rafael Lang, a physicist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, “this caused a lot of controversy when we published it.” [Citation needed]
Some scientists hypothesized that this surplus could have been explained by some unexpected new physics, such as solar axions, which are hypothetically light particles that may have originated from the sun. The excess, however, was not sufficiently large to be persuasive, therefore additional data were required.
XENONnT found the same number of electron recoils as predicted owing to known particle interactions in the new study, which was also reported by the researchers in a publication that was published on the experiment’s website. The new analysis incorporates data spanning around 97 days. According to Lang, the researchers are unsure as to what led to the increased number of detections in the earlier trial; nevertheless, it is likely that it was only a statistical fluke. Or, it could have been because the detector had trace amounts of tritium, which consists of hydrogen atoms that have two neutrons in their nuclei.
Researchers at XENONnT are currently searching through their data in search of nuclear recoils in the hopes of locating the genuine article now that the distraction caused by the red herring has been eliminated.