We show that, despite stringent constraints on the shape of the main part of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) spectrum, there is considerable room for its modification within its Rayleigh-Jeans (RJ) end, ω TCMB. We construct explicit new physics models that give an order one (or larger) increase of photon count in the RJ tail, which can be tested by existing and upcoming experiments aiming to detect the cosmological 21 cm emission or absorption signal. This class of models stipulates the decay of unstable particles to dark photons A′ that have a small mass, mA′∼10-14-10-9 eV, nonvanishing mixing angle ϵ with electromagnetism, and energies much smaller than TCMB. The nonthermal number density of dark photons can be many orders of magnitude above the number density of CMB photons, and even a small probability of A′→A oscillations, for values as small as ϵ∼10-9, can significantly increase the number of RJ photons. In particular, we show that resonant oscillations of dark photons into regular photons in the interval of redshifts 20<z<1700 can be invoked as an explanation of the recent tentative observation of a stronger-than-expected absorption signal of 21 cm photons. We present a model that realizes this possibility, where meV mass dark matter decays to dark photons, with a lifetime longer than the age of the Universe.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
We thank Yacine Ali-Haïmoud and Jens Chluba for helpful conversations. M. P. and J. T. R. acknowledge the financial support provided by CERN. Research at Perimeter Institute is supported by the Government of Canada through Industry Canada and by the Province of Ontario through the Ministry of Economic Development & Innovation. J. P. is supported by the New Frontiers program of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. J. T. R. is supported by NSF CAREER Grant No. PHY-1554858.
© 2018 authors. Published by the American Physical Society.