Light shines on dark matter from Victorian mine shaft
Researchers are looking for one of the most mysterious substances in the universe, starting their search in a rural Victorian mine shaft.
A team of international scientists will descend on a mine in Stawell, north-east of Melbourne, in the quest to spot dark matter.
Dark matter is invisible, but believed to comprise about 85 per cent of the matter in the universe – probably, but it is all still a theory.
It has never been directly detected, but its presence is inferred from gravitational effects on visible matter, radiation, and the broad structure of the universe.
Now, researchers from Australia, Italy and the US say the Stawell mine could provide the perfect environment to detect it.
They are digging deep to development sensitive crystals capable of measuring the miniscule signals that may be generated by dark matter.
Physicist from the University of Melbourne Professor Geoffrey Taylor says the prototype equipment needs to be deep underground to allow surrounding rock to shield any incoming signal from natural cosmic rays.
“So this is down at about 1,000 metres or even deeper and all these cosmic rays, which would be a background to a very sensitive measurement, have been filtered out by the rocks, they've been stopped by going deep enough,” he told the ABC.
“[Also] the activity of the mine is slowing down,.
“Deep mining has ceased and they're re-mining some of the material further to the surface so it makes sense to make use of this while the mining company is there and the deep areas are available to us,” he said.
Particle physicist and Harvard University professor Lisa Randall told reporters that it was beneficial to see this kind of cutting-edge activity in the southern hemisphere.
She said an observatory on the bottome half of the world could eventually be crucial to finding dark matter.
“You want to be able to track the dark matter over a period of time and in different regions of the world because you would see it differently and be able to distinguish dark matter from the background,” she said.
“Doing a complimentary experiment here in the southern hemisphere would be an extremely exciting development.”
This article covers parts of the history and some interesting facts about the mysterious, possibly non-existent, dark matter.