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Huge underground search for mysterious black matter begins

Huge underground search for mysterious black matter begins

LEAD, S.D. (AP) — In a former gold medal pit a mile underground, inside a titanium tank filled accompanied by a infrequent liquified gas, scientists have begun the search for what so a lengthy way has been unfindable: black matter.

Scientists are attractive sure the invisible stuff makes up most of the universe's pile with every one other accompanied by speak we wouldn't exist here lacking it — nevertheless they don't know what it is. The contest to find an answer to this enormous puzzle has brought one team to the depths under Lead, South Dakota.

The question for scientists is basic, says Kevin Lesko, a physicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. "What is this great place I exist in? Right now, 95% of it is a mystery."

The idea is that a mile of grime with every one other accompanied by rock, a colossus tank, a following tank with every one other accompanied by the purest titanium inside the world will chunk almost all the cosmic rays with every one other accompanied by particles that zip around — with every one other accompanied by into and not here of — all of us every one day. But black matter particles, scientists think, tin retain away from all those obstacles. They hope one will travel through the air into the vat of liquid xenon inside the inner tank with every one other accompanied by smash into a xenon nucleus exist fond of set of two balls inside a game of pool, revealing its actuality inside a flash of illumination seen by a device called "the hour dated projection chamber."

Scientists announced Thursday that the five-year, $60 million search eventually got underway set of two months ago following a delay caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. So a lengthy way the device has found ... nothing. At least no indeed black matter.


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That's OK, they say. The apparatus appears to exist employed to filter not here most of the background radiation they hoped to block. "To search for this extremely infrequent sort of interaction, position of employment number one is to earliest obtain clear of all of the usual sources of radiation, which would overwhelm the experiment," said University of Maryland physicist Carter Hall.

And if all their calculations with every one other accompanied by theories are right, they figure they'll see only a set of two fleeting signs of black matter a year. The team of 250 scientists estimates they'll obtain 20 times additional facts over the following set of two of years.

By the hour dated the experiment finishes, the chance of finding black matter accompanied by this device is "probably less than 50% nevertheless additional than 10%," said Hugh Lippincott, a physicist with every one other accompanied by spokesperson for the experiment inside a Thursday report conference.

While that's a lengthy way from a sure thing, "you need a little enthusiasm," Lawrence Berkeley's Lesko said. "You don't go into infrequent search physics lacking some hope of finding something."

Two hulking Depression-era hoists sprint an elevator that brings scientists to what's called the LUX-ZEPLIN experiment inside the Sanford Underground Research Facility. A 10-minute descent ends inside a underground passage accompanied by cool-to-the-touch walls lined accompanied by netting. But the old, musty pit in a short time leads to a high-tech lab where grime with every one other accompanied by contamination is the enemy. Helmets are exchanged for new cleaner ones with every one other accompanied by a dual layer of infant blue booties go over steel-toed safety boots.

The heart of the experiment is the colossus tank called the cryostat, lead creator Jeff Cherwinka said inside a December 2019 tour earlier to the device was closed with every one other accompanied by filled. He described it while "like a thermos" made of "perhaps the purest titanium inside the world" designed to retain the liquid xenon chilly with every one other accompanied by retain background radiation at a minimum.

Xenon is special, explained experiment physics coordinator Aaron Manalaysay, since it allows researchers to see if a collision is accompanied by one of its electrons or accompanied by its nucleus. If something hits the nucleus, it is additional probable to exist the black matter that everyone is looking for, he said.

These scientists tried a similar, smaller experiment here years ago. After coming up empty, they figured they had to go a a large amount of bigger. Another large-scale experiment is underway inside Italy sprint by a competitor team, nevertheless no indeed results have been announced so far.

The scientists are trying to comprehend why the cosmos is not what it seems.

One small portion of the puzzle is black matter, which has by a lengthy way most of the pile inside the cosmos. Astronomers know it's there since when they measure the stars with every one other accompanied by other uniform matter inside galaxies, they find that there is not almost sufficient gravity to clasp these clusters together. If nothing else was not here there, galaxies would exist "quickly flying apart," Manalaysay said.

"It is essentially impossible to comprehend our watching of history, of the evolutionary cosmos lacking black matter," Manalaysay said.

Lippincott, a University of California, Santa Barbara, physicist, said "we would not exist here lacking black matter."

So while there's little uncertainty that black matter exists, there's lots of uncertainty concerning what it is. The leading theory is that it involves things called WIMPs — weakly interacting massive particles.

If that's the case, LUX-ZEPLIN could exist intelligent to notice them. We want to find "where the wimps tin exist hiding," Lippincott said.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears.


The Associated Press Health with every one other accompanied by Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely in charge of for all content.

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