Has dark matter finally been found? The leader of the space-based particle physics experiment said on Monday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science that big news in the search for dark matter may be coming in about two weeks.
Two weeks is when the first paper results from the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a particle collector mounted on the outside of the International Space Station, will be submitted to a scientific journal, says MIT physicist Samuel Tig, AMS principle investigator.
Ting did not reveal exactly what the experiment has found, but did note that the results bear on the mystery of dark matter. Dark matter is the invisible stuff that is thought to outnumber regular matter in the universe by a factor of about six to one.
"It will not be a minor paper."
Ting said that the scientists rewrote the paper 30 times before they were satisfied with it, and said that it represents a "small step" in figuring out what dark matter is, and perhaps is not the final answer.
According to some physics theories, dark matter is made up of something called WIMPS, or weakly interacting massive particles, which is a class of particles that are their own antimatter partner particles. When matter and antimatter particles meet, they annihilate each other. If two WIMPs collided, they would be destroyed and would then release a pair of daughter particles - an electron and its antimater counterpart.
The $2 billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer has the potential to detect positrons and electrons that are produced by dark matter annihilations in the Milky Way. So far, since the AMS was installed at the ISS in May 2011, it has detected 25 billion particle events, including about 8 billion electrons and positrons.
This first paper will report o how many of each were found, and what their energies are.
Even if AMS hasn't found dark matter yet, scientists say they expect the question of dark matter's origin to become clearer soon. The AMS could make the discovery, but so could the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and various underground dark matter detectors buried around the world.