Dark matter remains elusive after 20-month search

25 Jul 2016

The latest effort to find the elusive dark matter – which is thought to constitute over 80pc of the entire universe – has ended in failure.

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX), a project tasked with finding dark matter, has found no evidence despite 20 months of dedicated searching.

The sensitivity of LUX was greater than needed for this particular project, with the research team involved confident that any dark matter passing by the target point would “almost certainly” have been discovered.

Future Human

Dark Matter

Dark matter elusive

Operating out of the depths in South Dakota, the research facility hosting LUX is actually one mile beneath the Black Hills.

Despite the disappointment that the mystery matter remains undiscovered, the fact that it was absent is also a telling finding, according to the team.

“Though a positive signal would have been welcome, nature was not so kind,” said LUX collaboration scientist at University College London, Dr Cham Ghag.

“Nonetheless, a null result is significant as it changes the landscape of the field by constraining models for what dark matter could be beyond anything that existed previously.”

WIMPS everywhere?

Searching for WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles), LUX found no evidence of dark matter thought to travel through our bodies, planet or skies.

“We’ve worked on identifying and classifying pulses in the raw data collected by LUX to select candidate pulse signal events which could indicate WIMPs,” said Sally Shaw, who collaborated on the project.

This process is vital as it can help spot something immensely rare, removing “noise and events” that are not related to WIMPS.

“We then used our findings to determine how efficient the detector is, and found that if a dark matter particle had hit the detector, we would have identified it.”

Last winter, NASA suggested dark matter forms into ‘fine-grained streams’ of particles like hair, following identical orbits to galaxies such as our Milk Way with some reaching sizes bigger than our entire solar system, which creates an incredible effect when interacting with a planet.

Milky Way image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic