What is the universe made of by William DeRocco

William DeRocco

Stanford | Acquistapace/Hearst/Larsen/Newton

Supernovae, by virtue of their high temperatures, are unique laboratories for exploring new physics beyond the Standard Model. My work revolves around identifying direct and indirect signatures of as-of-yet undiscovered particles produced in supernova explosions.


A large body of observational evidence indicates that the dominant contribution to the mass of galaxies is not visible matter, but rather a mysterious constituent of the Universe dubbed dark matter. While these observations show that dark matter must be present in galaxies, its fundamental nature is as-of-yet unknown. There is a vast theoretical and experimental program dedicated to uncovering the nature of dark matter; however, due to its inherently weak interactions with visible matter, producing dark matter in a laboratory and observing it is very difficult. Luckily, the Universe has already provided us with an ideal laboratory for the production of dark matter– supernovae, the death throes of supermassive stars. These explosions are the most energetic events in the universe, and can result in the production of (potentially) large abundances of dark matter. My research focuses on finding observable signatures of dark matter produced in supernovae, using both “direct” means (e.g. dark matter scattering in an Earth-based detector) and “indirect” means (e.g. observation of its decay products).


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