HomeReportsResearchers dig deep underground in hopes of finally observing dark matter

Researchers dig deep underground in hopes of finally observing dark matter

This article was originally published at The Conversation. The publication contributed the article to Space.com’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Physicists like me don’t fully understand what makes up about 83% of the matter of the universe — something we call “dark matter.” But with a tank full of xenon buried nearly a mile under South Dakota, we might one day be able to measure what dark matter really is.

In the typical model, dark matter accounts for most of the gravitational attraction in the universe, providing the glue that allows structures like galaxies, including our own Milky Way, to form. As the solar system orbits around the center of the Milky Way, Earth moves through a dark matter halo, which makes up most of the matter in our galaxy.

This artist’s illustration shows an enormous halo of hot gas (in blue) around the Milky Way galaxy. Also shown, to the lower left of the Milky Way, are the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, two small neighboring galaxies. The halo of gas is shown with a radius of about 300,000 light years, although it may extend significantly further. (Image credit: NASA/CXC/M.Weiss; NASA/CXC/Ohio State/A Gupta et al)

I’m a physicist interested in understanding the nature of dark matter. One popular guess is that dark matter is a new type of particle, the Weakly Interacting Massive Particle, or WIMP. “WIMP” captures the particle’s essence quite nicely – it has mass, meaning it interacts gravitationally, but it otherwise interacts very weakly – or rarely – with normal matter. WIMPs in the Milky Way theoretically fly through us on Earth all the time, but because they interact weakly, they just don’t hit anything.

Searching for WIMPs

- Advertisment -
Google search engine

Most Popular

Recent Comments