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Detection of an unidentified emission line in the stacked X-ray spectrum of galaxy clusters

Detection of an unidentified emission line in the stacked X-ray spectrum of galaxy clusters

Publication date: 25 June 2014

Authors: Bulbul, E., et al.

Journal: The Astrophysical Journal
Volume: 789
Issue: 1
Year: 2014

Copyright: IOP Publishing

We detect a weak unidentified emission line at E = (3.55-3.57) ± 0.03 keV in a stacked XMM-Newton spectrum of 73 galaxy clusters spanning a redshift range 0.01-0.35. When the full sample is divided into three subsamples (Perseus, Centaurus+Ophiuchus+Coma, and all others), the line is seen at >3-sigma statistical significance in all three independent MOS spectra and the PN "all others" spectrum. It is also detected in the Chandra spectra of the Perseus Cluster. However, it is very weak and located within 50-110 eV of several known lines. The detection is at the limit of the current instrument capabilities. We argue that there should be no atomic transitions in thermal plasma at this energy. An intriguing possibility is the decay of sterile neutrino, a long-sought dark matter particle candidate. Assuming that all dark matter is in sterile neutrinos with ms = 2E = 7.1 keV, our detection corresponds to a neutrino decay rate consistent with previous upper limits. However, based on the cluster masses and distances, the line in Perseus is much brighter than expected in this model, significantly deviating from other subsamples. This appears to be because of an anomalously bright line at E = 3.62 keV in Perseus, which could be an Ar XVII dielectronic recombination line, although its emissivity would have to be 30 times the expected value and physically difficult to understand. Another alternative is the above anomaly in the Ar line combined with the nearby 3.51 keV K line also exceeding expectation by a factor of 10-20. Confirmation with Astro-H will be critical to determine the nature of this new line.

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