Will the Universe Give Up Its Dark Secrets?

    We’ve waited 18 years to write this paper, and we’re now making the final check.

    Sam Ting

    Alpha Magnetic SpectrometerIt’s always fun getting our hopes up. One might do well to wonder what is the anthropological value of ritual anticlimax. Or, as Jonathan Amos explains for BBC:

    The scientist leading one of the most expensive experiments ever put into space says the project is ready to come forward with its first results.

    The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) was put on the International Space Station to survey the skies for high-energy particles, or cosmic rays.

    Nobel Laureate Sam Ting said the scholarly paper to be published in a few weeks would concern dark matter.

    The seven-ton AMS cost two billion dollars to construct, is bolted onto the International Space Station, and apparently works by bending the paths of particles moving through space.

    The way they bend reveals their charge, a fundamental property that, together with information about their mass, velocity and energy, garnered from a slew of detectors, tells scientists precisely what they are dealing with.

    Prof Ting said that in its first 18 months of operation, AMS had witnessed 25 billion particle events.

    Of these, nearly eight billion were fast-moving electrons and their anti-matter counterparts, positrons.

    Colliding and annihilating Wimps ought to produce showers of these electrons and positrons. And it is by measuring the ratio of the latter to the former, and the behaviour of any excess across the energy spectrum, which may provide a way into the dark matter problem.

    One Dark WIMP theory expects the particle to clock in “somewhere between 30 and maybe 1,000 GeV”, according to Professor Michael Turner of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics. The forthcoming paper from Ting’s team “will report the positron-electron ratio in the mass range of 0.5 to 350 Gigaelectronvolts”.
    Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope
    The pursuit of dark matter and energy has been underway for seventy years; these mysterious components are rumored, suggested, and hypothesized to comprise as much as 96% of the Universe. But as technology progresses, and new results come in, the chase has heated considerably. Indeed, last month, discussion arose about possibly turning the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope toward the search for dark matter after its current mission ends in June.


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