Instantons, which are nonperturbative solutions to Yang-Mills equations, provide a signal for the occurrence of quantum tunneling between distinct classes of vacua. They can give rise to decays of particles otherwise forbidden. Using data collected at the Pierre Auger Observatory, we search for signatures of such instanton-induced processes that would be suggestive of super-heavy particles decaying in the Galactic halo. These particles could have been produced during the post-inflationary epoch and match the relic abundance of dark matter inferred today. The nonobservation of the signatures searched for allows us to derive a bound on the reduced coupling constant of gauge interactions in the dark sector: alpha X < 0.09, for 109 < MX=GeV < 1019. Conversely, we obtain that, for instance, a reduced coupling constant alpha X = 0.09 excludes masses MX greater than or similar to 3 x 1013 GeV. In the context of dark matter production from gravitational interactions alone, we illustrate how these bounds are complementary to those obtained on the Hubble rate at the end of inflation from the nonobservation of tensor modes in the cosmological microwave background.
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