During 2018, scientists all over the world were busy investigating dark matter. And while they still haven’t technically found it, 2019 is set to be a spectacular year in the hunt for this mysterious substance. Four different searches are set to take place now that the new year has begun.
The first search for dark matter will be taking place at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), which are American detectors based out of Hanford and Livingston. With LIGO having successfully spotted gravitational waves back in 2015, in 2019 it will once again begin another run. As Live Science reports, taking gravitational wave data to hunt for dark matter is really not as strange as it may sound.
Physicists suggested last year that if there really is a dark photon somewhere — one which holds a very small amount of mass — LIGO might be the place where it would be detected Dark matter may appear as odd blips within gravitational waves, according to researchers.
“We show that both ground-based and future space-based gravitational wave detectors have the capability to make a conclusive dark matter discovery.”
Once LIGO is again up and running in 2019, the hunt for dark matter will officially be on.
The second search for dark matter will be taking place at the Fermilab National Accelerator Laboratory, after an experiment in 2018 — called MiniBooNE — suggested that there may be a completely new neutrino out there. This sterile neutrino was shown to have very little interaction with the universe, and physicists have suggested that this particle may shed more light on the nature of dark matter. In 2019, physicists will be examining the data from the MiniBooNE experiment even more closely in an attempt to glean more information about this sterile neutrino.
The hunt for dark matter will also — eventually — be continuing at the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) that is currently being constructed in Chile. Over the course of just three days, this powerful telescope will be able to map the entire sky. Over the period of a decade, it will meticulously compare each of these sky images to learn about subtle variations and large changes that occur.
In 2019, scientists will finally be able to use this telescope, which weighs a whopping 6,200 pounds — and even though full science operations will not begin until 2022, this year will be the first that this telescope is operational, which means hunting for dark matter will be able to proceed.
The fourth search for dark matter involves the Chinese project known as the PandaX platform. The PandaX-xt detector, which scientists are building this year, will be scoping out xenon, hunting for a sparkle which may turn out to be dark matter.
Besides these four projects in 2019, other searches for dark matter will be helped along by the construction of LUX-ZEPLIN in South Dakota — and the upgrade of the XENON detector in Italy.