Scientists closing in on dark matter?

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 19, 2012 09:30 hrs

Dark matter is one of the biggest mysteries in modern physics.

Physicists believe it makes up about 23 percent of the mass-energy content of the universe, but what is dark matter is still a mystery.

Now cosmologists, astrophysicists and experimental particle physicists say they are closing in on an answer.

As the search for dark matter intensifies, the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago and the National Academy of Sciences organized a colloquium that brings together cosmologists, particle physicists and observational astrophysicists - three fields now united in the hunt to determine what is dark matter.

In mid-October, more than 100 cosmologists, particle physicists and astrophysicists gathered for a meeting called Dark Matter Universe: On the Threshold of Discovery at the National Academy of Sciences' Beckman Center in Irvine, CA.

Their goal: to take stock of the latest theories and findings about dark matter, assess just how close we are to detecting it and spark cross-disciplinary discussions and collaborations aimed at resolving the dark matter puzzle.

Talking about the importance of such discussion, Michael S. Turner - Rauner Distinguished Service Professor and Director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago - said "Figuring out what is dark matter has become a problem that astrophysicists, cosmologists and particle physicists all want to solve, because dark matter is central to our understanding of the universe."

"We now have a compelling hypothesis, namely that dark matter is comprised of WIMPs (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle), particles that don't radiate light and interact rarely with ordinary matter. After decades of trying to figure out how to test the idea that dark matter is made up of WIMPs, we have three ways to test this hypothesis. Best of all, all three methods are closing in on being able to either confirm or falsify the WIMP. So the stars have truly aligned," said Turner, who participated in the meeting.

Edward "Rocky" Kolb - Professor in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago - added, "The title to this meeting is a great answer to your question. It's "On the Threshold of Discovery," and it could happen within the next one or two years. It's so important to get the different communities here - experimentalists working at colliders, people analyzing gamma ray data from space, and those involved in direct detection." (ANI)

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