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Exploring dark matter via observations of extreme astrophysical environments -- defined here as heavy compact objects such as white dwarfs, neutron stars, and black holes, as well as supernovae and compact object merger events -- has been a major field of growth since the last Snowmass process. Theoretical work has highlighted the utility of current and near-future observatories to constrain novel dark matter parameter space across the full mass range. This includes gravitational wave instruments and observatories spanning the electromagnetic spectrum, from radio to gamma-rays. While recent searches already provide leading sensitivity to various dark matter models, this work also highlights the need for theoretical astrophysics research to better constrain the properties of these extreme astrophysical systems. The unique potential of these search signatures to probe dark matter adds motivation to proposed next-generation astronomical and gravitational wave instruments. Note: Contribution to Snowmass 2021 -- CF3. Dark Matter: Cosmic Probes
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Ultra-high-energy (UHE) photons are an important tool for studying the high-energy Universe. A plausible source of photons with exa-eV (EeV) energy is provided by UHE cosmic rays (UHECRs) undergoing the Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin process (Greisen 1966; Zatsepin & Kuzmin 1966) or pair production process (Blumenthal 1970) on a cosmic background radiation. In this context, the EeV photons can be a probe of both UHECR mass composition and the distribution of their sources (Gelmini, Kalashev & Semikoz 2008; Hooper, Taylor & Sarkar 2011). At the same time, the possible flux of photons produced by UHE protons in the vicinity of their sources by pion photoproduction or inelastic nuclear collisions would be noticeable only for relatively near sources, as the attenuation length of UHE photons is smaller than that of UHE protons; see, for example, Bhattacharjee & Sigl (2000) for a review. There also exists a class of so-called top-down models of UHECR generation that efficiently produce the UHE photons, for instance by the decay of heavy dark-matter particles (Berezinsky, Kachelriess & Vilenkin 1997; Kuzmin & Rubakov 1998) or by the radiation from cosmic strings (Berezinsky, Blasi & Vilenkin 1998). The search for the UHE photons was shown to be the most sensitive methodmore »
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