— Big news in the search for dark matter may be coming in about two weeks, the leader of a space-based particle physics experiment said today (Feb. 17) here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
That's when the first paper of 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, said MIT physicist Samuel Ting, AMS principle investigator.
Though Ting was coy about just what, exactly, the experiment has found, he said the results bear on the mystery of dark matter, the invisible stuff 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, hinting that the findings were important enough that the scientists rewrote the paper 30 times before they were satisfied with it. Still, he said, it represents a "small step" in figuring out what dark matter is, and perhaps not the final answer.
Some physics theories suggest that dark matter is made of WIMPS (weakly interacting massive particles), a class of particles that are their own antimatter partner particles. When matter and antimatter partners meet, they annihilate each other, so if two WIMPs collided, they would be destroyed, releasing a pair of daughter particles — an electron and its antimatter counterpart, the positron, in the process.more