Black Holes enhance Dark Matter Annihilations

Title: Effect of Black Holes in Local Dwarf Spheroidal Galaxies on Gamma-Ray Constraints on Dark Matter Annihilation
Author: Alma X. Gonzalez-Morales, Stefano Profumo, Farinaldo S. Queiroz
PublishedarXiv:1406.2424 [astro-ph.HE]
Upper bounds on dark matter annihilation from a combined analysis of 15 dwarf spheroidal galaxies for NFW (red) and Burkert (blue) DM density profiles.
Upper bounds on dark matter annihilation from a combined analysis of 15 dwarf spheroidal galaxies for NFW (red) and Burkert (blue) DM density profiles. Fig. 4 from arXiv:1406.2424.

In a previous ParticleBite we showed how dwarf spheroidal galaxies can tell us about dark matter interactions. As a short summary, these are dark matter-rich “satellite [sub-]galaxies” of the Milky Way that are ideal places to look for photons coming from dark matter annihilation into Standard Model particles. In this post we highlight a recent update to that analysis.

The rate at which a pair of dark matter particles annihilate in a galaxy is proportional to the square of the dark matter density. The authors point out that if the dwarf spheroidal galaxies contain intermediate mass black holes (\sim 10^4 times the mass of the sun), then its possible that the dark matter in the dwarf is more densely packed near the black hole. The authors redo the FERMI analysis for DM annihilation in dwarf spheroidals with 4 years of data (see our previous ParticleBite) with the assumption that these dwarfs contain a black hole consistent with their observed properties.

While the dwarf galaxies have little stellar content, one can use the visible stars to measure the stellar velocity dispersion, \sigma_*. As a benchmark, the authors use the Tremaine relation to determine the black hole mass as a function of the observed velocity dispersion,

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Here M_{\odot} is the mass of the sun. Given this mass and its effect on the dark matter density, they can then calculate the factor that encodes the `astrophysical’ line of slight integral of the squared dark matter density to observers on the Earth. Following the FERMI analysis, authors then set bounds on the dark matter annihilation cross section as a function of the dark matter mass for 15 dwarf spheroidals:

DM annihilation cross-section constraints for the b ̄b final state, for individual dSph, and for a combined analysis of 15 galaxies, assuming an initial NFW DM density distributio
DM annihilation cross-section constraints for annihilation into a pair of b quarks, from 1406.2424 Fig. 1. The shaded band is the target cross section to obtain the correct dark matter relic density through thermal freeze out, the red box is the target cross section for a dark matter interpretation of an excess in gamma rays in the galactic center.

Observe that the bounds are significantly stronger than those in the original FERMI analysis. In particular, the strongest bounds thoroughly rule out the “40 GeV DM annihilating into a pair of b quarks” interpretation of a reported excess in gamma rays coming from the galactic center. These bounds, however, come with several caveats that are described in the paper. The largest caveat is that the existence of a black hole in any of these systems is only assumed. The authors note that numerical simulations suggest that there should be black holes in these systems, but to date there has been no verification of their existence.

Further Reading

  • We refer to the previous ParticleBite for introductory material on indirect detection of dark matter.
  • See this blog post at io9 for a public-level exposition and video of observational evidence for the supermassive black hole (much heavier than the intermediate mass black holes posited in the dwarf spheroidals) at the center of the Milky Way.
  • See Ullio et al. (astro-ph/0101481) for an early paper describing the effect of black holes on the dark matter distribution.

Dark Matter Shining from the Dwarfs

Title: Dark Matter Constraints from Observations of 25 Milky Way Satellite Galaxies with the Fermi Large Area Telescope
Author: FERMI-LAT Collaboration
Published: Phys.Rev. D89 (2014) 042001 [arXiv:1310.0828]

Dark matter (DM) is `dark’ because it does not directly interact with light.  We suspect, however, that dark matter does interact with other Standard Model (SM) particles such as quarks and leptons. Since these SM particles do typically interact with photons, dark matter is indirectly luminous. More specifically, when two dark matter particles find each other and annihilate, their products include a spectrum photons that can be detected by telescopes. For typical `weakly-interacting massive particle’ DM candidates, these photons are in the GeV (γ-ray) range.

If dark matter interacts with the Standard Model, e.g. quarks, then its annihilation products include a spectrum of photons.
If dark matter interacts with the Standard Model, e.g. quarks, then its annihilation products include a spectrum of photons. Here we schematically show DM annihilating into quarks which shower into other colored `partons’ (quarks and gluons) that, in turn, become color-neutral hadrons. These then decay into light hadrons; the lightest of which (the neutral pion π) decays into two photons. Image adapted from D. Zeppenfeld (PiTP 05 lectures).

This type of indirect detection is a powerful handle to search for dark matter in the galaxy. The most promising place to search for these annihilation products are places where we expect a high density of dark matter, such as the galactic center. In fact, there have been recent hints for precisely this signal (see, e.g. this astrobite). Unfortunately, the galactic center is a very complicated environment with lots of other sources of GeV-scale photons that can make a DM interpretation tricky without additional checks.

Fortunately, there are other galactic objects that are dense with dark matter and have relatively little stellar (visible) matter: dwarf spheroidals. These satellite galaxies of the Milky Way are ideal laboratories for dark matter annihilation. While they have less dark matter density than the galactic center, they also have far fewer background photons from ordinary matter. Our tool of choice is the space-based Fermi-Large Area Telescope which is sensitive to photons between 0.03 — 300 GeV and surveys the entire sky every three hours.

Fig 1 of arXiv:1310.0828
Map of known dwarf spheroidals over a ‘heat map’ of Fermi gamma-ray data. Image from 1310.0828.

The photon flux from dark matter annihilation is a product of three factors:

Photon flux
Photon flux from DM annihilation.

The “particle physics factor” describes the dark matter properties: its mass and annihilation rate. The dN_\gamma/dE_\gamma factor describes the spectrum of photons coming from the DM annihilation products. The “astrophysics” factor is a line of sight integral along the dark matter density \rho. Note that the \rho^2 from this factor and the  m_\chi^{-2} in the particle physics factor is simply the dark matter number density; the photon flux depends on how likely it is for DM particles to find each other. The astrophysics factor is sometimes called a J factor. For some of the dwarfs astronomers can determine the J factor based on the kinematics of the [few] stellar objects in the dwarf spheroidal.

One may use the morphology—or spatial distribution of dark matter—to help subtract background photons and fit data. For this ParticleBite we won’t discuss this step further except to emphasize that these fits are where all the astrophysics “muscle” enters. Each dwarf individually sets bounds on the dark matter profile, but one can combine (or “stack”) these results into a combined bound for each DM annihilation final state. The bounds differ depending on these annihilation products because each type of particle produces a different spectrum of photons that must be re-fit relative to the background. The dark matter mass controls the energy with which the ‘primary’ annihilation products are produced so that heavier dark matter masses yield more energetic photons.

Combined dwarf spheroidal bounds on the annihilation cross section (roughly the rate of DM annihilation) as a function of the dark matter mass for a choice of DM annihilation products. Image from 1310.0828.

In the above plots, the green and yellow bands represent the approximate expected 1σ and 2σ sensitivity while the solid black line is the observed bound. There is a slight excess at lower masses, though the most optimistic excess in the b-quark channel has a significance of TS ~ 8.7, where TS is a ‘test statistic’ measure introduced in the paper. The relevant comparison is that TS ~ 25 is the standard Fermi uses for a discovery, so this excess should be understood to be fairly modest. (Note that the paper also notes that the statistical analysis underestimates statistical significance so that if one were to convert this into p-values or σ, one would overestimate the significance.)

Note further that the “stacked” analysis is most sensitive to those dwarfs with the largest J factors. Of these, half showed an excess while the other half were consistent with no excess.

The most important feature of the above plots is the horizontal dashed line. This line represents the dark matter annihilation cross section (“annihilation rate”) that one predicts based on the requirement that the observed dark matter density is set by this annihilation process. (There are ways around this, but it remains the simplest and most natural possibility.) The relevant bounds on the dark matter models, then, comes from looking at the point where the solid line and the dashed horizontal line meet. Dark matter masses to the left (i.e. less than) this value are disfavored in the simplest models.

For example, for dark matter that annihilates to b-quarks, one finds that the dwarf spheroidals set a lower limit on the dark matter mass of around 10 Gev. We note that this bound based on 4 years of Fermi data is weaker than the previously published 2 year results due, in part, to a revised analysis.

The future? A gamma ray excess in the galactic center (see, e.g. this astrobite) may possibly be interpreted as a signal of dark matter with mass of around 40 GeV annihilating into b quarks. At the moment the dwarf spheroidal bounds are to weak to probe this region. Will it ever? Since Fermi samples the entire sky, any newly identified dwarf spheroidal (e.g. from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey) automatically makes the full 4 year dataset for that dwarf available. Since the bounds scale like \sqrt{N} (in the DM mass range below 200 GeV), one may roughly estimate the future sensitivity to the 40 GeV mass range as requiring 16 times more data. If we consider the next 4 years (doubling the observation time), this would require roughly 4 times more dwarfs to be identified. (See, e.g. this talk for a discussion.)

Further reading: some useful references for indirect detection of dark matter