World's Most Sensitive Particle Detector May Finally Discover Dark Matter

First Posted: Dec 15, 2015 09:58 AM EST

The world's most sensitive detector may have found a bit more about dark matter. The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment has dramatically improved its detector's sensitivity.

Researchers with LUX are looking for WIMPs, which are weakly interacting massive particles. These particles, in particular, are among the leading candidates for dark matter. In order to do so, the researchers improved the sensitivity of the detector.

"We have improved the sensitivity of LUX by more than a factor of 20 for low-mass dark matter particles, significantly enhancing our ability to look for WIMPs," said Rick Gaitskell, one of the researchers, in a news release. "It is vital that we continue to push the capabilities of our detector in the search for the elusive dark matter particles."

LUX improvements have already allowed scientists to test additional particle models of dark matter that can now be excluded from the search. This may make actually finding dark matter far easier than before.

"We have looked for dark matter particles during the experiment's first three-month run, but are exploiting new calibration techniques better pinning down how they would appear to our detector," said Alistair Currie, a LUX researcher. "These calibrations have deepened our understanding of the response of xenon to dark matter, and to backgrounds. This allows us to search, with improved confidence, for particles that we hadn't previously known would be visible to LUX."

The researchers have reexamined data collected during LUX's first three-month run in 2013. This helps rule out the possibility of dark matter detections at low-mass ranges where other experiments had previously reported potential detections.

While LUX is still searching for dark matter signals, researchers have narrowed down the search slightly, so it's more likely a detection will be made.

The findings are published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

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