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Dark Matter Annihilation at the Galactic Center


Observations by the WMAP and PLANCK satellites have provided extraordinarily accurate observations on the densities of baryonic matter, dark matter, and dark energy in the universe. These observations indicate that our universe is composed of approximately five times as much dark matter as baryonic matter. However, efforts to detect a particle responsible for the energy density of dark matter have been unsuccessful. Theoretical models have indicated that a leading candidate for the dark matter is the lightest supersymmetric particle, which may be stable due to a conserved R-parity. This dark matter particle would still be capable of interacting with baryons via weak-force interactions in the early universe, a process which was found to naturally explain the observed relic abundance of dark matter today. These residual annihilations can persist, albeit at a much lower rate, in the present universe, providing a detectable signal from dark matter annihilation events which occur throughout the universe. Simulations calculating the distribution of dark matter in our galaxy almost universally predict the galactic center of the Milky Way Galaxy (GC) to provide the brightest signal from dark matter annihilation due to its relative proximity and large simulated dark matter density. Recent advances in telescope technology have allowed for the first multiwavelength analysis of the GC, with suitable effective exposure, angular resolution, and energy resolution in order to detect dark matter particles with properties similar to those predicted by the WIMP miracle. In this work, I describe ongoing efforts which have successfully detected an excess in gamma-ray emission from the region immediately surrounding the GC, which is difficult to describe in terms of standard diffuse emission predicted in the GC region. While the jury is still out on any dark matter interpretation of this excess, I describe several related observations which may indicate a dark matter origin. Finally, I discuss the role of future telescopes in differentiating a dark matter model from astrophysical emission.

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