LUX dark matter experiment

December 14th, 2015 @ 12:38 pm by Andy Fell

Contributed by the LUX Collaboration

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment, which operates nearly a mile underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in the Black Hills of South Dakota, has already proven itself to be the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world. Now, a new set of calibration techniques employed by LUX scientists has again dramatically improved its sensitivity.

Researchers with LUX are looking for WIMPs, weakly interacting massive particles, which are among the leading candidates for dark matter.

“The nature of dark matter is one of the most important questions facing physics today, and this effort by the LUX collaboration is the most sensitive experiment for direct detection of WIMPs,” said Mani Tripathi, professor of physics at UC Davis and one of the founding principal investigators of LUX.

The LUX team at UC Davis consists of postdoctoral researchers Aaron Manalaysay and Scott Stephenson, and graduate students Sergey Uvarov, Brian Lenardo, James Morad, and Jacob Cutter. Several undergraduate students are involved in this research, including Eric Emdee, Thomas Kurty, Nathaniel Nunez, Jack Zilinkas, and Megha Jain.

The new research is described in a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters and posted to ArXiv. The work re-examines data collected during LUX’s first three-month run in 2013, and helps to rule out the possibility of dark matter detections at low-mass ranges where other experiments had previously reported potential detections.

Dark matter is thought to be the dominant form of matter in the universe. Scientists are confident in its existence because the effects of its gravity can be seen in the rotation of galaxies and in the way light bends as it travels through the universe. Because WIMPs are thought to interact with other matter only on very rare occasions, they have yet to be detected directly.

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Video: 4850 feet below: The hunt for dark matter (Science Friday)