Dark matter is invisible to us, but we know that it is out there. Remarkably, according to our current model of cosmology, dark matter makes up a staggering 26.8% of the total energy density of the observable universe. It neither emits nor absorbs light, but its gravitational influence on stars and galaxies provides strong indirect evidence of its existence.
Though elusive, we do have tests that we can use to look for dark matter and try and pin down what it is. Indeed, there have already been attempts to look for it, such as Large Underground Xenon experiment (LUX) in the Homestake mine in Lead, South Dakota.
Now, scientists want to make another attempt, and it’s the largest ever. The experiment is called XENON1T, and it aims to measure the tiny amount of energy given off when particles in the ‘halo’ of dark matter interact with atoms of ordinary matter on Earth. 125 scientists from the XENON dark matter research project at the Italian Gran Sasso laboratory will monitor 3.5 tons of liquid xenon in order to do so. It is hoped that the new detector will find dark matter after just a few weeks of operation.
The Quest for Dark Matter
Dark matter is thought to be composed of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMP) predicted by supersymmetry. Supersymmetric WIMPs are also being hunted by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland.
Some physicists worry that if both projects fail, it would be the end of both the dark matter theory and supersymmetry, as it could discourage further research. If successful, XENON1T will, however, not be able to claim its discovery of dark matter, which is currently entitled to the DAMA collaboration. Another collaboration called COSINE is planning to prove or disprove DAMA’s data.