Experiments at the Large Hadron Collider in Italy are aiding the study of dark matter.
Last week, researchers smashed protons against helium nuclei inside LHC’s chamber. Typically, LHC hosts proton-on-proton collisions.
The latest collisions are meant to replicate the interactions between cosmic-ray particles and interstellar ‘dust’ particles. Cosmic-ray particles are high-energy particles originating from outside the solar system. Interstellar dust particles are the most common interstellar medium, made up of mostly hydrogen and helium.
Scientists hope the collisions will aid the search for black matter — the invisible matter that makes up 25 percent of the universe. Researchers have yet to directly confirm the existence of dark matter, but scientists hypothesize the collision of dark matter particles produces ordinary particles and antiparticles, including antiprotons.
Proton-helium collisions also produce antiprotons. The latest experiments will help scientists measure the number of antiprotons yielded by proton-helium interactions. The information could potentially help physicists identify antiprotons produced by dark matter collisions in interstellar space.
For example, an expected number of antiprotons could reveal the presence of dark matter. But currently, scientists need a more precise understanding of proton-helium collisions.
Scientists are currently analyzing proton-helium collisions using a pair of cosmic-ray research satellites, PAMELA and AMS-02. Scientists hope the LHC experiments will help astronomers interpret PAMELA and AMS-02 data with greater clarity.
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