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Dark matter detector set up in South Dakota

Last Updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 13:31

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Researchers are set to start work on finding the dark matter in an underground facility in an old gold mine in South Dakota`s Black Hills.

The mine is useful because dark matter is too sensitive to detect in normal laboratories. By setting up the Large Underground Xenon detector (LUX) deep underground, dark matter should be shielded from pesky cosmic radiation that interferes with detection.

Moving the three-ton detector into place took time and care. It was wrapped in protective foam and plastic and rode part of the way underground on air bearings to protect it from even the slightest jiggle.

"Dark matter presents a much bigger problem to detect," said Tom Shutt, a physics professor with Case Western Reserve University who`s working on the project.

"If we find it, it`s going to be a much bigger shift in our understanding of physics."

Scientists earlier this month announced a breakthrough in the existence of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that scientists believe gives other particles mass. It is sometimes called the "God particle" because its existence is key to understanding the early evolution of the universe.

Dark matter, meanwhile, is elusive matter that scientists believe makes up about 25 percent of the universe. They know it`s there by its gravitational pull, but unlike regular matter and antimatter, it`s so far undetectable.

By discovering dark matter, scientists could explain why the universe isn`t made up equally of matter and antimatter. That, in turn, could explain how the world as we know it came to be.

"It was a bit of a nail-biter," Yale Physics Professor Dan McKinsey said. "We always worry there might be something you didn`t think of that could go wrong."

The detector could begin collecting data as early as December.

"We`re all going after the same thing: We`re trying to figure out what are the basic components of the universe," Shutt said.

(With Agency inputs)

First Published: Saturday, July 14, 2012 - 12:27
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