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A group of scientists has linked the presence of macroscopic dark matter to the occurrence of extremely rare “straight” lightning bolts.
In an article published in Physical Review D, researchers at the University of Toronto and Case Western University in Ohio said chunks of dark matter – known as “macros” – created a “straight channel of ionized plasma” at this velocity through the atmosphere . this could lead to a lightning strike appearing straight “and therefore very characteristic”.
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“Macroscopic dark matter (macros) is a broad class of alternative candidates for dark matter from particles. These candidates would transfer energy to matter primarily by elastic scattering. A sufficiently large macro that passes through the atmosphere would be a straight channel of ionized plasma produce.” Group said in March. “If the cross-section of the macro is σx⪆6 × 10−9 cm2, the plasma channel would be sufficient under lightning-conducive atmospheric conditions (e.g. a thunderstorm) to trigger a lightning strike with a single conductor.”
By way of comparison, they found that ordinary lightning strikes consist of “a series of conductors hundreds or thousands of a few meters long” strung together.
Furthermore, the appearance of a remarkably rigid macro-induced lightning strike would not be altered by wind shear or magnetohydrodynamic instabilities.
“The only photographically documented case of straight lightning is probably not just enough to be macro-induced,” they said.
According to NASA, lightning is generated in electrically charged thunderclouds, which emit energy and eject so-called “leader strokes” to a location with the opposite charge: either on the ground or on another cloud.
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Most of the time, dark matter – not to be confused with dark energy – is a mystery, and much more is known about what it is not than what it is.
Dark matter, says the agency, is matter that is dark and not in the form of stars and planets that are visible to humanity. Nor is it in the form of dark clouds of normal particles called baryons, antimatter, or galaxy-sized black holes.
“By fitting a theoretical model of the composition of the universe to the combined cosmological observations, scientists found the composition described above: ~ 68% dark energy, ~ 27% dark matter, ~ 5% normal matter.” NASA said in a post on the NASA Science website.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, which spoke to the report’s authors on Thursday, the leading theory is that dark matter is made up of elementary particles known as “weakly interacting massive particles” or WIMPs. It’s an idea as opposed to macros that the publications purport to fly through space at speeds between 150 and 300 miles per second.
“Because these macros travel so fast, they’re not really affected by the wind. So these ion channels are remarkably straight and cut right through the Earth’s atmosphere,” Nathaniel Starkman, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, told Smithsonian.
A macro possibly going through Earth’s atmosphere would create a straight ion channel due to its energy release, and an electric storm could act as a conduit for that channel, argued Starkman and his team.
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However, if vision believes, scientists have yet to observe this event.
A bolt seen in Zimbabwe in 2015 was close, but not close enough.
Starkman and the researchers hope to continue their search by using networks of meteor cameras, examining electrical storms on Jupiter, and instructing people to examine places where macros may have left traces, like a slab of granite.