31 October 2017
This Halloween, the UK and the world are celebrating the ongoing hunt for dark matter. In 20 countries simultaneously, the world will be marking the first ever Dark Matter Day. (31 October 2017).
Dark matter is a mysterious mass that together with dark energy, accounts for about 95% of the universe. Everything we know, stars, planets, galaxies, makes up just 5% of the universe. The rest is a mystery scientists are trying to piece together.
As part of the global celebration, activities are taking place all over the UK to engage the public in discussions about what we already know about dark matter and the many existing and future experiments seeking to solve its mysteries. You can also follow the search for dark matter around the world with these live virtual events.
Revealing dark matter’s true nature will tell us a lot about the origins, evolution and overall structure of the universe, and will reshape our understanding of physics.
Dr Cham Ghag, a dark matter researcher from University College London explains: “Everything we see in the Universe makes up only a paltry 5%. The rest is ‘dark’ – we know remarkably little about it other than what we call ‘dark energy’ is causing the expansion of the Universe to accelerate, and ‘dark matter’ is holding galaxies like our own Milky Way together. Scientists think that dark matter is everywhere, streaming through you as you read this right now!”
Dark matter explains how galaxies spin at a faster-than-expected rate without coming apart. Scientists know from these and other space observations that there is “missing” mass—something we can’t see—that makes up an estimated 95 percent of the total mass and energy of the universe. So a big part of the universe is largely unknown to us.
Finding out what dark matter is made of is a pressing pursuit in physics. We don’t yet know if it’s composed of undiscovered particles or whether it requires some other change in our understanding of the universe’s laws of physics. A host of innovative experiments are searching for the source of dark matter using different types of tools, such as detectors over a mile underground in Northern England, powerful particle beams, and space-based and ground-based telescopes.
Understanding the nature of Dark Matter is one of the most important scientific missions of our time. UK researchers are at the forefront of the search for this elusive substance: modelling its impact on cosmology; mapping its distribution; seeking direct detection in highly sensitive detectors buried deep underground; searching for signatures of Dark Matter annihilations in space; and even trying to produce some new Dark Matter at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.
You can find out more about the day and how you can get involved, as well as images, infographics, videos and simple explanations about dark matter on the STFC webpage.
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