Dark Matter Hunt

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World's Most Sensitive Dark Matter Detector Gives Its First Results

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by Ian O'Neill

After three years of construction, the world's most sensitive dark matter experiment is online, and scientists report that the detector is operating as designed.

The XENON1T detector hasn't found any dark matter particles yet, but it has carried out a 30-day science run, and project scientists are optimistic about the future.

"The best result on dark matter so far! ... and we have just started!" the XENON1T team said in a statement.

The XENON1T experiment is located deep beneath a mountain at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory in Italy (known by its Italian acronym, LNGS) so it can be shielded from interference caused by cosmic rays and other radiation sources on Earth's surface.

XENON1T is looking for the microscopic fireworks created by weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs) crashing into xenon atoms. WIMPs are hypothetical particles that many scientists think are a primary component of dark matter.

Astronomical observations have confirmed that only about 15 percent of the material universe is composed of "ordinary" (or "baryonic") matter; nearly 85 percent is mysterious dark matter, which cannot be observed directly by telescopes. But dark matter's gravity can be measured indirectly via its effects on galaxy clusters and the rotation rates of galaxies, so we know it's out there.

Because WIMPs are so "weakly interacting" -- that is, they cannot interact with normal matter via the electromagnetic, strong or weak forces -- XENON1T can detect them only by looking out for lucky collisions between WIMPs and atoms in a chamber filled with pure liquid xenon cooled to minus 139 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 95 degrees Celsius).

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This page contains a single entry by cul published on May 26, 2017 10:26 PM.

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