Direct detection experiments, which are designed to detect the scattering of dark matter off nuclei in detectors, are a critical component in the search for the Universe's missing matter. This Colloquium begins with a review of the physics of direct detection of dark matter, discussing the roles of both the particle physics and astrophysics in the expected signals. The count rate in these experiments should experience an annual modulation due to the relative motion of the Earth around the Sun. This modulation, not present for most known background sources, is critical for solidifying the origin of a potential signal as dark matter. The focus is on the physics of annual modulation, discussing the practical formulas needed to interpret a modulating signal. The dependence of the modulation spectrum on the particle and astrophysics models for the dark matter is illustrated. For standard assumptions, the count rate has a cosine dependence with time, with a maximum in June and a minimum in December. Well-motivated generalizations of these models, however, can affect both the phase and amplitude of the modulation. Shown is how a measurement of an annually modulating signal could teach us about the presence of substructure in the galactic halo or about the interactions between dark and baryonic matter. Although primarily a theoretical review, the current experimental situation for annual modulation and future experimental directions is briefly discussed.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Physics and Astronomy(all)