Dark Fires in the Sky: Model-Independent Dark Matter Detection via Kinetic Heating of Neutron Stars

I present a largely model-independent probe of dark matter-nucleon interactions. Accelerated by gravity to relativistic speeds, local dark matter scattering against old neutron stars deposits kinetic energy at a rate that heats them to infrared blackbody temperatures. The resulting radiation is detectable by next generation telescopes such as James Webb and the Thirty Meter Telescope. While underground direct detection searches are not (or poorly) sensitive to dark matter with sub-GeV masses, higher-than-weak-scale masses, scattering with strong cross-sections, scattering below neutrino floors, spin-dependent per-nucleon scattering below per-nuclear cross-sections, velocity-dependent scattering, and inelastic scattering for inter-state transitions exceeding O(100 keV), the (non-)observation of dark kinetic heating of neutron stars should advance these frontiers by orders of magnitude. Popular dark matter candidates previously suspected elusive, such as the thermal Higgsino, may be discovered.
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Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics,
Dec 2, 2017, 12:10 PM