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The identity of the mysterious dark matter thought to pervade the universe has eluded astrophysicists for decades. Now, for the first time a team hopes to look inside the sun for one of the prime candidates.
The invisible stuff called dark matter is thought to make up as much as 90 percent of the universe's matter. To date, astrophysicists have only inferred the existence of some mysterious substance by identifying its gravitational effects on visible matter such as stars and galaxies. (For instance, dark matter makes galaxies spin faster than otherwise expected.)
The sun is thought to possibly be a factory for these axions. When photons at the sun's core feel a magnetic field, they become axions, the thinking goes. Since the teensy particles only weakly interact with ordinary matter, they are thought to easily fly through the sun's core toward the surface unimpeded by other particles. Once at the solar corona, where the sun's magnetic field is strong, the axions would convert back into photons.