Scientists Get Better At Searching For Dark Matter

Still unseen
The Perseus galaxy cluster where Dark Matter was detected
(Photo: NASA)

Tomorrow (Oct. 31) is "Dark Matter Day," and while this esoteric event will matter only to scientists and the science-minded, it does focus more attention on the unknown stuff that comprises 85 percent of the total mass of the known Universe.

On Dark Matter Day many different events dedicated to dark matter will take place all over the world.

Researchers from Lund University in Sweden seems to have timed the release of a new technique in the continuing search for dark matter to coincide with the second staging of Dark Matter Day. They announced the development of a more effective technique in the search for clues about dark.

The technique allows them to analyze much larger amounts of the data generated at CERN. The world's largest particle physics laboratory has a long series of experiments underway where protons collide in the LHC accelerator at almost the speed of light.

The amount of data continues to increase as the accelerator's capacity improves. The challenge is processing and storing the vast amounts of data produced. This results in a continuous evaluation of which data researchers should examine more closely.

If researchers aren't careful, they might end up discarding data that contains clues to completely new particles of which we are not yet aware, such as particles that form dark matter, said Caterina Doglioni, a particle physicist at Lund University. She's also a member of the ATLAS experiment at CERN.

ATLAS is one of CERN's experiment stations. It is where the accelerator ring's two proton beams collide at unimaginable energy density.

Doglioni is one of the researchers behind a recent study focusing on how to better utilize CERN's enormous amounts of data. Much of the data analysis today is done in a short amount of time so that a much smaller fraction of the event is retained. Before, all the information from the experiment was recorded and analyzed at a later date,

This technique allows researchers to record and store many more events that might contain traces of new particles. It's been that employed by other LHC experiments, as well,

The hope is to find signs of hitherto unknown particles that could be carriers of forces that could create a connection between visible and dark matter, said Doglioni.

Researchers call these new particles, "mediator particles." These particles can disintegrate into extremely short-lived pairs of quarks or the very building blocks of the protons and neutrons in atoms. When quarks disintegrate, a type of particle shower is formed that we can actually detect with our instruments, according to Doglioni,

Researchers have long been searching for answers about the elusive dark matter that makes up most of the stuff in our Universe. Only five percent of the Universe is a matter that we are currently able to perceive and measure. The remaining 95 percent is unexplored and referred to as dark matter and dark energy.

Doglioni says scientists know dark matter exists. Normally, dark matter passes through measurement instruments, but cannot be registered. But in the case of their research, her team hopes to see the products of particles connected to it.

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