Scientists searching for dark matter deep in the former Homestake Gold Mine in Lead brought their work to the surface on Wednesday.
Their project seeks to explore the origins of the universe. It's what the scientists have been able to rule out that may lead them one step closer to success. The results presented at the Sanford Underground Research Facility are expected to make science news around the world.
It's one of the quietest places on earth. Or actually, down in the earth; way down deep in the former Homestake Gold Mine in Lead. There, in an environment safe from disruptive cosmic noise, scientists from the Sanford Underground Research Facility look for dark matter, a mysterious substance thought to make up most of the material universe.
"Right now there are literally millions, if our hypothesis is correct, there are more than ten million dark-matter particles traveling through my hand every second," Rick Gaitskell, a physicist working on the dark-matter project, said.
Yet dark matter eludes science. So the Sanford team went a mile underground, shielded from radiation, to install a massive water tank with an ultra-sensitive detection system housed in an interior tank of frigid liquid xenon. Thought to be the world's quietest spot, it could be where dark matter is finally found.
A three-month run showed the LUX detector to be every bit as sensitive as scientists hoped. That's what they reported on Wednesday, before they continue the search.
"This is only the beginning," physicist Dan McKinsey said. "There are many theoretical models that are just out of reach of the current run that we'll be exploring in the future, with future runs of the LUX detector."
Gov. Dennis Dauggard was among those who came to celebrate the initial results, which he said affirm South Dakota's commitment to the project.
"What's great about the experiment results today is that the high degree of sensitivity is something that the researchers were hoping for, but now they are seeing," Daugaard said.
Way down in the ground, in the quietest place on earth.
The researchers say their initial findings have allowed them to rule out at least source of dark matter. But there's more work to be done.
The team plans to build a bigger, more sensitive detector which they hope will lead them to a world-class breakthrough.