Queen's University

Searching for Dark Matter with Neutron Star Mergers and Quiet Kilonovae

Diagram related to dark matter density and Milky Way-like Galaxy for project by Queen's University researcher Dr. Joseph BramanteWe identify new astrophysical signatures of dark matter that implodes neutron stars (NSs), which could decisively test whether NS-imploding dark matter is responsible for missing pulsars in the Milky Way galactic center, the source of some r-process elements, and the origin of fast-radio bursts. Firstly, NS-imploding dark matter forms ∼10−10 solar mass or smaller black holes inside neutron stars, which proceed to convert neutron stars into ∼1.5 solar mass BHs. This decreases the number of neutron star mergers seen by LIGO/Virgo (LV) and associated merger kilonovae seen by telescopes like DES, BlackGEM, and ZTF, and instead, producing a population of "black mergers" containing ∼1.5 solar mass black holes. Secondly, dark matter-induced neutron star implosions may create a new kind of kilonovae that lacks a detectable, accompanying gravitational signal, which we call "quiet kilonovae." Using DES data and the Milky Way's r-process abundance, we constrain quiet kilonovae. Thirdly, the spatial distribution of neutron star merger kilonovae and quiet kilonovae in galaxies can be used to detect dark matter. NS-imploding dark matter destroys most neutron stars at the centers of disc galaxies, so that neutron star merger kilonovae would appear mostly in a donut at large radii. We find that as few as ten neutron star merger kilonova events, located to ∼1 kpc precision could validate or exclude dark matter-induced neutron star implosions at 2σ confidence, exploring dark matter-nucleon cross-sections 4-10 orders of magnitude below current direct detection experimental limits. Similarly, NS-imploding dark matter as the source of fast radio bursts can be tested at 2σ confidence once 20 bursts are located in host galaxies by radio arrays like CHIME and HIRAX. (Read More)