Sanford Underground Lab hits new milestone for dark matter experiment

Local News

LEAD, S.D. (KELO) — Researchers at the Sanford Underground Lab in Lead, South Dakota are another step closer to possibly unlocking a scientific secret that’s baffled them for years. How to account for a hidden substance that makes up nearly one-third of the entire universe?

“When we look up in the sky we can see ample evidence for the existence of some sort of material which is causing these galaxies to form, galaxy clusters to form. There is plenty of evidence up in the sky that this dark matter exist,” Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland Carter Hall said.

However, dark matter is something researchers have not been able to study because it does not react very well with matter here on Earth.

“So the experiment that we are doing here, its job is to look for exotic particles coming from outer space, subatomic particles that are not atoms, something that’s never been seen before. Passing through the Earth and passing through the laboratory from the outer space,” Hall said.

To examine dark matter, scientists need a chemical element called “liquid xenon,” and a very large thermos to hold it.

And the dark matter detector is located almost 5,000 feet underground.

“For the last five years we have been kind of worried about whether it’s going to fit. And now it’s underground. It’s ready to continue its journey in the assembly of the detector so we are really excited,” University of Wisconsin Physical Sciences Lab & Chief Engineer Jeff Cherwinka said.

With the thermos underground, researchers are able to have pure liquid xenon, far away from radioactive materials above ground.

“So the xenon is our target material and we are going to be looking for dark matter particles to be bouncing off of them,” Hall said.

Bringing researchers one step closer to discovering what almost 30 percent of our universe is.

Within the year 2020, the Sanford Lab researchers will start taking data to see what they find out about dark matter. The experiment is funded for five years.

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