Researchers reported that the $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) may have detected particles produced by “cosmic glue” the dark matter, which makes up 27% of our universe. Image © NASA
Above: The International Space Station with Space Shuttle Atlantis docked on the right and a Russian Soyuz on the far left. In the foreground is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment installed during the STS-134 mission.
The team used cosmic ray detector on the orbiting outpost and they promise an answer ‘within months’ as they continue to analyze data. The discovery would ‘open the door to a whole new world’!
Dark matter is thought to be the cosmic glue that holds galaxies together but just what is dark matter and why does it, well, matter?
“As the most precise measurement of the cosmic ray positron flux to date, these results show clearly the power and capabilities of the AMS detector,” said AMS spokesperson, Samuel Ting. “Over the coming months, AMS will be able to tell us conclusively whether these positrons are a signal for dark matter, or whether they have some other origin.”
“When you take a new precision instrument into a new regime, you tend to see many new results, and we hope this this will be the first of many,” said Ting. “AMS is the first experiment to measure to 1% accuracy in space. It is this level of precision that will allow us to tell whether our current positron observation has a Dark Matter or pulsar origin.”
“The AMS result is a great example of the complementarity of experiments on Earth and in space,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer. “Working in tandem, I think we can be confident of a resolution to the dark matter enigma sometime in the next few years.”
In astronomy and cosmology, dark matter is a type of matter hypothesized to account for a large part of the total mass in the universe. Dark matter cannot be seen directly with telescopes, evidently it neither emits nor absorbs light or other electromagnetic radiation at any significant level.
Instead, its existence and properties are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the large-scale structure of the universe. According to the Planck mission team, and based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass–energy of the universe contains 4.9% ordinary matter, 26.8% dark matter and 68.3% dark energy. Thus, dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe.