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Quest for dark matter starts in form of tiny bubbles at Fermilab

Last Updated: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 15:40

Washington: A group of physicists from Northwestern University have launched an unusual new experiment in an attempt to be the first to directly confirm the existence of dark matter.

Scientists this week heard their first pops in an experiment that searches for signs of dark matter in the form of tiny bubbles.

The experiment`s one-of-a-kind detector is located in a laboratory a mile and a half underground in Sudbury, Ontario.

The physicists will need to analyze the data to discern whether dark matter caused any of the COUPP-60 experiment`s first bubbles. COUPP stands for the Chicagoland Observatory for Underground Particle Physics.

The experiment, which includes 23 physicists, is being led by the University of Chicago, Northwestern and the US Department of Energy`s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Fermilab managed the assembly and installation of the dark-matter detector.

"For every gram of light matter, or atoms, in the universe, there are 5.5 grams of dark matter," Eric Dahl, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

"It is still unknown what this dark matter is actually made of, but whatever it is, it`s something new. Physicists already have ruled out every known particle.

"If we do find dark matter, not only will we answer one of the biggest mysteries in cosmology and astrophysics, we`ll be seeing into a new world of particle physics as well," he said. "The potential payoff is huge."

Gravitational evidence for the existence of dark matter abounds. As early as 1933 astrophysicists found that the observed motions of galaxies require much more gravitational matter than can be accounted for by the matter we can see (in the form of stars and gas).

Since then, a series of astrophysical and cosmological measurements, from observations of light bending around distant galaxy clusters to studies of the microwave background radiation left over from the big bang, all confirm that most of the matter in the universe is dark.


First Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 - 14:08
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