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Dark Matter makes up about 26% of the Universe, but telescopes can't see it directly.

expand Summary
  • Dark matter is thought to make up 26% of the total energy density of the Universe.
  • Experimental limits and theoretical arguments favour the idea that Dark Matter particles weigh 50-1000 times as much as a proton
  • If you could make something out of dark matter it would fall straight through the Earth
  • Billions of dark matter particles may pass through your body every second but only about 35 collide with a nucleus in your body each year.
  • The amount of Dark Matter going through the Earth must be highest in June and lowest in December because the Earth moves through the Galaxy (and its dark matter cloud) 30% faster in June.
  • The most sensitive directional dark matter detector in the world, DRIFT-II [link to relevant object], is at the Boulby Underground Laboratory, 1100m below ground in a working Potash mine in North East England

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James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) Facts

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), the replacement for the Hubble Space Telescope, will launch in 2018 and will look back in time to detect some of the first cases of star formation in the early Universe.

expand JWST Facts
  • JWST’s primary mirror is 6.5m in diameter and made up of 18 segments each 1.3m in diameter. This gives JWST a collecting area of 25m2
  • The UK built Mid Infrared Instrument (MIRI) became the 1st instrument to be delivered to NASA for JWST in 2012
  • JWST will orbit the Earth from a fixed point 1.5 million kilometres away
  • JWST can ‘fix’ itself by correcting for any focussing errors through adjustable mirrors and optics
  • JWST’s mirrors are bigger and lighter than Hubble’s. It also picks up a larger range of wavelengths than any other space telescope.
  • JWST will be able to detect the likely presence of planetary systems around nearby stars

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Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Facts

The Large Hadron Collider is the world's largest and highest energy particle accelerator.

expand LHC Facts
  • The LHC’s cryogenic distribution system is the world’s largest fridge
  • At full power, protons go around the 27km LHC accelerator 11245 times per second at 99.9999991% of the speed of light
  • The protons in the LHC travel through a vacuum as empty as interplanetary space.
  • When beams of Lead ions collide they will generate temperatures 100 000 times that at the heart of the sun
  • When the original 27km tunnel was dug, the two ends met up to within 1cm.

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Laser Facts

LASER stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation.

expand Laser facts
  • The concepts of lasers can be traced back to a theory proposed by Albert Einstein in 1917
  • Over 50000 patents have been issues for lasers since its invention
  • Estimates suggest that the world market for lasers is worth more than $7.5 billion
  • There have been 8 Nobel Prizes for laser-related research
  • Researchers are looking at ways to use lasers to control the weather
  • Lasers can be used to detect counterfeit whiskey and determine alcohol content
  • Laser cooling can slow atoms down to cm/s – an energy level that corresponds to microkelvin temperatures – that’s about a millionth of the temperature of interstellar space

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Atmosphere facts

The mixture of gases in atmosphere has taken 4.5 billion years to evolve

expand Atmosphere facts
  • The atmosphere is made up of layers:
    • Troposphere
      • Thinnest layer (12km thick) but makes up 80% of the weight of the atmosphere – it is the densest layer
      • Most of the weather changes occur in the troposphere – the upper troposphere has ‘jet streams’
    • Stratosphere
      • At its upper edge there’s a maximum ozone concentration – the ozone layer.
      • Clouds in the stratosphere are rare – the air is dry. High-speed aircraft often fly in the lower stratosphere because of the lack of clouds and storms and because air resistance is so low.
    • Mesosphere
      • Coldest layer at about -90oC – the formation zone for ice clouds that are visible during sunset.
      • Usually meteors falling towards the Earth are burned up in the mesosphere – when the meteor hits the atmosphere, the air in front of it compresses very quickly. When a gas is compressed, its temperature rises. This causes the meteor to heat up so much that it glows and is eventually completely burned up. Re-entry temperatures can reach 1650oC.
    • Thermosphere
      • High concentration of electrically charged particles – produced by UV radiation, X-rays and cosmic rays.
      • Auroras occur in the ionosphere.
    • Magnetosphere (exosphere)
      • Cosmic rays and high energy particles from space are trapped in the magnetosphere by magnetic forces from the Earth’s magnetism.
      • The whole magnetosphere is an elongated teardrop shape, going far into space in the direction away from the Sun.
  • 1st weather satellite,TIROS-1, was launched on 1st April 1960 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was 42” in diameter, 19” high and weighs 270lb and functioned for just 78 days, wasn’t always pointing at the Earth and could only operate in daylight but managed to send back thousands of pictures of cloud patterns forming and moving across the face of the planet.
  • Chilbolton Observatory's suite of lidar instruments has been used to detect and track clouds of volcanic ash in the atmosphere

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Science and Technology Facilities Council
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