Thu, Mar 07, 2019 - Page 7 News List

New experiment at CERN lab to hunt for dark matter

AFP, GENEVA, Switzerland

The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on Tuesday said it is planning a new experiment to look for particles associated with dark matter, which is believed to make up about 27 percent of the universe.

CERN, which is home to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) — a giant lab in a 27km tunnel straddling the French-Swiss border — said that the new experiment is “designed to look for light and weakly interacting particles.”

Scientists say that so-called ordinary matter — which includes stars, gases, dust, planets and everything on them — accounts for only 5 percent of the universe.

However, dark matter and dark energy account for the rest, and scientists have yet to directly observe either.

Invisible to telescopes, dark matter is a mysterious substance, which is perceived through its gravitational pull on other objects in the cosmos.

“Some of these sought-after particles are associated with dark matter,” CERN said in a statement.

Back in 2010, the LHC began smashing high-energy protons into each other at velocities near the speed of light. These collisions generate new particles, giving physicists an unprecedented look at the laws of nature in the hope of better understanding the universe.

However, the LHC’s four main detectors are not suited for picking up evidence of such light and weakly interacting particles associated with dark matter.

“They may travel hundreds of meters without interacting with any material before transforming into known and detectable particles, such as electrons and positrons. The exotic particles would escape the existing detectors along the current beam lines and remain undetected,” CERN said.

To address the problem, CERN has developed a new instrument known as FASER, which can perform highly sensitive searches and is able to spot such particles.

“Although the protons in the particle beams will be bent by magnets around the LHC, the light, very weakly interacting particles will continue along a straight line and their ‘decay products’ can be spotted by FASER,” it said.

The aim is to search for hypothesized particles, including so-called dark photons and neutralinos, which are also associated with dark matter, with the experiment expected to start running between 2021 and 2023.

In 2012, the LHC was used to prove the existence of the Higgs Boson — dubbed the God particle — which allowed scientists to make great progress in understanding how particles acquire mass.

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