Particle Physics in the Sky

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This Hertzsprung-Russell (HR) diagram shows stellar populations ordered according to brightness (vertical axis) and surface temperature or color (horizontal axis).
(image by Diagram, ESO; White line overlay, APS/Alan Stonebraker)
Much can be learned about hypothetical particles called axions by studying the evolution of massive stars. In the cosmos, the most-weakly-interacting particles may have the strongest presence. Dark matter particles are estimated to constitute more than 80% of the matter in the Universe, but are so weakly interacting with other matter that physicists have been unable to figure out what they are. Likewise, neutrinos are the most difficult to detect of the known particles, yet they are known to dominate the late stages of a star's evolution and likely drive the supernova explosion that follows the core collapse of a dying massive star. If axions are the particles that make up dark matter, it would mean their interactions are too feeble for stars to produce them efficiently but strong enough that they could emerge from the early Universe in just the right amount.

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