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Will the XENON1T experiment soon report a detection of dark matter or other new physics?
A major goal of eperimental particle physics and cosmology is to identify the dark matter pervading the universe. Foremost candidates for this matter are WIMPS and axions. An ongoing test for WIMP-nucleon scattering is XENON1T in Italy, with a much higher sensitivity than preceding experiments; this dark matter detector is essentially a 3500 kilogram target of liquid Xenon sandwiched between two arrays of photomultiplier tubes. The arrays detect signals from scintillation and electron drift generated from particles scattering off Xenon nuclei, at which point known backgrounds will be subtracted out to get the WIMP signal.
Recently, the XENON1T experiment disclosed that it has some interesting events in hand; see preprint and popular article in Quanta. These happened not in its search for WIMP dark matter, but in looking for axions. Per the Quanta article,
As the WIMP search kept coming up empty, XENON scientists realized several years ago that they could use their experiment to search for other kinds of unknown particles that might pass through the detector: particles that bang into an electron rather than a xenon nucleus.
In their new analysis, the physicists examined electronic recoils in the first year’s worth of XENON1T data. They expected to see roughly 232 of these recoils, caused by known sources of background contamination. But the experiment saw 285 — a surplus of 53 that signifies an unaccounted-for source.
There are two interesting hypotheses to explain these excesses, one boring one, and then of course "other." The interesting ones are axions from the Sun, and a large neutrino magnetic moment. The boring one is contamination by tritium. According again to the article:
Luckily the physics community won’t have to wait long for answers; XENON1T’s successor, the XENONnT experiment — which will monitor for recoils in 8.3 metric tons of xenon — is on track to begin data collection later this year. So we ask:
Will the XENON1T or successor experiment soon announce detection of either type of physics beyond the standard model?
Resolution is positive if by the end of 2022, a paper or preprint is published including results by XENON1T (likely in combination with additional results from XENONnT or elsewhere) claiming or better evidence for either solar axions or a large neutrino magnetic moment. Resolution is negative otherwise.
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