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Dark Matter Project In Lead Close To Launching

April 15, 2012, 10:07 PM by Derek Olson

Dark Matter Project In Lead Close To Launching

A team of scientists at the Sanford Underground Research Facility is close to launching an experiment to shed some light on dark matter.

And while the piece of equipment being used is the largest and most powerful of its kind, it could get even bigger.

Everything in the universe is made of matter, but we only see less than 20 percent.

"There is a lot of mass that does not emit light that we cannot account for," LUX Physicist Simon Fiorucci said.

It's called dark matter and it's the focus of the LUX experiment at the Sanford Underground Research Facility at Homestake in Lead.

"We are looking for something that is five times more important in the entire universe than everything else that we know about so far," Fiorucci said.

The team of scientists is putting the finishing touches on the LUX detector, which will be installed nearly 5,000 feet below ground and should start running by the end of the year.

"At the end of 2013 we should have very interesting results that should be the best in the field for quite some time," Fiorucci said.

The LUX experiment will be the largest dark matter detector in the world, but it could be getting even bigger. Plans are in the works to build equipment more than five times the size of the one at Homestake, which is no surprise to scientists.

"We were already thinking that we might be in the position to get a bigger detector in there.  And so we've built it so that it can accommodate a much bigger detector; ten times, up to twenty times bigger possibly," Fiorucci said.

And that would increase the chances that the scientists will achieve what has never been done before, capturing a particle of dark matter.

"It's trying to look for the unknown, and once we find it we'll figure out the applications," Fiorucci said.

The scientists working on the LUX project are from 14 different institutions around the world.

If the facility is chosen for the larger experiment, it could begin as soon as 2016.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
An extra word was removed from the 9th paragraph.

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