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Still in the dark about dark matter

Press AssociationPress Association 21/07/2016 John von Radowitz

A giant machine buried in a disused gold mine has failed in its mission to detect dark matter, the mysterious hidden material that accounts for more than four-fifths of the mass of the universe.

The STG7 million ($A12.36 million) Large Underground Xenon (Lux) experiment operated beneath a 1.5km of rock in the Black Hills of Dakota.

It was designed to spot tiny flashes of light emitted as dark matter particles collided with atoms of xenon.

But results from the detector's final 20-month run, which ended in May this year, revealed no sign of the elusive particles.

The news that Lux had found no trace of dark matter was announced at IDM 2016, an international meeting of dark matter experts taking place in Sheffield.

Lux was targeting weakly interacting massive particles (Wimps), thought to be the best theoretical candidate for dark matter.

Despite drawing a blank the scientists remain committed to the Wimp model, and hope an even larger planned detector with 70 times more sensitivity than Lux may yet succeed in finding the particles.

Scientists know large quantities of dark matter are out there because of the way its gravity affects the rotation of galaxies and bends light.

But although it appears to play a key role in binding together and shaping the cosmos, dark matter cannot be seen with conventional telescopes or instruments.

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