Dark matter scientists on brink of discovering elusive particles

February 13, 2016, University of Edinburgh
A massive cluster of yellowish galaxies, seemingly caught in a red and blue spider web of eerily distorted background galaxies, makes for a spellbinding picture from the new Advanced Camera for Surveys aboard NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. To make this unprecedented image of the cosmos, Hubble peered straight through the center of one of the most massive galaxy clusters known, called Abell 1689. The gravity of the cluster's trillion stars — plus dark matter — acts as a 2-million-light-year-wide lens in space. This gravitational lens bends and magnifies the light of the galaxies located far behind it. Some of the faintest objects in the picture are probably over 13 billion light-years away (redshift value 6). Strong gravitational lensing as observed by the Hubble Space Telescope in Abell 1689 indicates the presence of dark matter. Credit: NASA, N. Benitez (JHU), T. Broadhurst (Racah Institute of Physics/The Hebrew University), H. Ford (JHU), M. Clampin (STScI),G. Hartig (STScI), G. Illingworth (UCO/Lick Observatory), the ACS Science Team and ESA

Technological advances are ushering in a new era of understanding in the search for fundamental physical particles - including dark matter - scientists will tell a public event.

Researchers are using analysis of deep space observations together with experiments far underground to hunt for - an elusive material which, together with , is thought to account for about 95 per cent of the universe.

Scientists will tell a public symposium in Washington, DC how current theories and experiment point to the existence of dark matter, but how it is little understood by scientists. Its discovery would be a fundamental development in understanding the physical universe, a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) will hear.

Professor Alex Murphy, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Physics and Astronomy, will describe ongoing global collaborations by scientists around the world to detect and define the nature of dark matter. These include astronomy studies to examine its effect on galaxies and light in space, and experiments deep underground that seek to detect it by minimising interference from other particles.

The most sensitive of these experiments is Large Underground Xenon, or LUX, detector - which is located a mile in South Dakota, US. Recent improvements have increased the device's chances of identifying sub-atomic particles called WIMPs - weakly interacting - which are believed to be the main component of dark matter.

Professor Murphy said: "Technology has enabled us to ramp up our search for this fundamental material, and its place in the physical realm."

Professor Murphy will explain the research at a symposium entitled Astroparticle Physics: Understanding Mysteries of the Universe on 3pm, Saturday 13 February at the Marriot Wardman Park, Washington DC. He will be joined by Professor Angela Olinto of the University of Chicago and Professor Eun-Suk Seo of the University of Maryland.

Explore further: Video: Hunting for the WIMPs of the universe

Related Stories

Video: Hunting for the WIMPs of the universe

April 28, 2015

Dark matter is a scientific mystery. We can't see or touch it. But physicists like Dan McKinsey theorize it must exist because, without it, the universe would look quite different.

Bright sparks shed new light on the dark matter riddle

February 1, 2016

The origin of matter in the universe has puzzled physicists for generations. Today, we know that matter only accounts for 5% of our universe; another 25% is constituted of dark matter. And the remaining 70% is made up of ...

Superconductors could detect superlight dark matter

February 9, 2016

(Phys.org)—Many experiments are currently searching for dark matter—the invisible substance that scientists know exists only from its gravitational effect on stars, galaxies, and other objects made of ordinary matter. ...

Recommended for you

Some black holes erase your past

February 21, 2018

In the real world, your past uniquely determines your future. If a physicist knows how the universe starts out, she can calculate its future for all time and all space.

Reaching new heights in laser-accelerated ion energy

February 20, 2018

A laser-driven ion acceleration scheme, developed in research led at the University of Strathclyde, could lead to compact ion sources for established and innovative applications in science, medicine and industry.

MEMS chips get metatlenses

February 20, 2018

Lens technologies have advanced across all scales, from digital cameras and high bandwidth in fiber optics to the LIGO lab instruments. Now, a new lens technology that could be produced using standard computer-chip technology ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Feb 13, 2016
Dark matter fills the space unoccupied by particles of matter and is displaced by the particles of matter which exist in it and move through it.

[0903.3802] The Milky Way's dark matter halo appears to be lopsided

"the emerging picture of the dark matter halo of the Milky Way is dominantly lopsided in nature."
The Milky Way's halo is not a clump of dark matter traveling along with the Milky Way. The Milky Way's halo is lopsided due to the matter in the Milky Way moving through and displacing the dark matter, analogous to a submarine moving through and displacing the water.

What mainstream physics mistakes for the density of the dark matter is actually the state of displacement of the dark matter.
1 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2016
This is not correct. The most sensitive is the XENON 1T experiment that just began taking first measurements in December 2015 in the Grand Sasso National Labratory in Italy. It is a collaboration of over 18 large leading universities in this field. From the European Union and the United States. Involving hundreds of scientists and a 3.5 Ton Xenon detector with a fiducial volume of 1 ton (3d generation evolved from earlier Xenon detectors). The South Dakota based detector only has 370kg of Xenon and less evolved detectors. So had a far less change of finding dark matter. Since the Dekota did not find dark matter it is now being upgraded to a larger version, Lux Zeplin, that should come online somewhere in 2016 at which point it would again surpass the Italian based experiment. The Lux-Zeplin collaboration (LZ) brings together the European ZEPLIN programme that operated a series of detectors at Boulby Mine, UK, with the LUX team.

Current leading search at :
1 / 5 (2) Feb 14, 2016
Of course both of which well be surpassed yet again by the even far more sensitive Darwin experiment.


Non the less Xenon 1T will have a major chanche of finding Dark Matter this very year. Exciting times.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.