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The local dark sector


Abstract

We speculate on the development and availability of new innovative propulsion techniques in the 2040s, that will allow us to fly a spacecraft outside the Solar System (at 150 AU and more) in a reasonable amount of time, in order to directly probe our (gravitational) Solar System neighborhood and answer pressing questions regarding the dark sector (dark energy and dark matter). We identify two closely related main science goals, as well as secondary objectives that could be fulfilled by a mission dedicated to probing the local dark sector: (i) begin the exploration of gravitation’s low-acceleration regime with a spacecraft and (ii) improve our knowledge of the local dark matter and baryon densities. Those questions can be answered by directly measuring the gravitational potential with an atomic clock on-board a spacecraft on an outbound Solar System orbit, and by comparing the spacecraft’s trajectory with that predicted by General Relativity through the combination of ranging data and the in-situ measurement (and correction) of non-gravitational accelerations with an on-board accelerometer. Despite a wealth of new experiments getting online in the near future, that will bring new knowledge about the dark sector, it is very unlikely that those science questions will be closed in the next two decades. More importantly, it is likely that it will be even more urgent than currently to answer them. Tracking a spacecraft carrying a clock and an accelerometer as it leaves the Solar System may well be the easiest and fastest way to directly probe our dark environment.

Abstract

We speculate on the development and availability of new innovative propulsion techniques in the 2040s, that will allow us to fly a spacecraft outside the Solar System (at 150 AU and more) in a reasonable amount of time, in order to directly probe our (gravitational) Solar System neighborhood and answer pressing questions regarding the dark sector (dark energy and dark matter). We identify two closely related main science goals, as well as secondary objectives that could be fulfilled by a mission dedicated to probing the local dark sector: (i) begin the exploration of gravitation’s low-acceleration regime with a spacecraft and (ii) improve our knowledge of the local dark matter and baryon densities. Those questions can be answered by directly measuring the gravitational potential with an atomic clock on-board a spacecraft on an outbound Solar System orbit, and by comparing the spacecraft’s trajectory with that predicted by General Relativity through the combination of ranging data and the in-situ measurement (and correction) of non-gravitational accelerations with an on-board accelerometer. Despite a wealth of new experiments getting online in the near future, that will bring new knowledge about the dark sector, it is very unlikely that those science questions will be closed in the next two decades. More importantly, it is likely that it will be even more urgent than currently to answer them. Tracking a spacecraft carrying a clock and an accelerometer as it leaves the Solar System may well be the easiest and fastest way to directly probe our dark environment.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Physics Institute
Dewey Decimal Classification:530 Physics
Scopus Subject Areas:Physical Sciences > Astronomy and Astrophysics
Physical Sciences > Space and Planetary Science
Uncontrolled Keywords:Space and Planetary Science, Astronomy and Astrophysics
Language:English
Date:1 June 2021
Deposited On:16 Jun 2021 08:55
Last Modified:25 Jun 2024 01:40
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:0922-6435
OA Status:Hybrid
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/s10686-021-09734-8
  • Content: Published Version
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)