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Unlocking Dark Matter Secrets: Search for Mysterious 'Dark Photon' Begins

Dec 02, 2016 04:31 AM EST

The European Organization for Nuclear Research's (CERN) scientists recently marked the beginning of the search for the evasive dark photons.

Scientists long believed that dark matter which makes up 85 percent of the total mass of the universe interacts with matter through gravity. However, they have also openly discussed the possibility that in addition to gravity, the hypothetical substance is interacting with another undetected particle, to which they refer to as "dark photons."

As mentioned, a popular hypothesis is that dark matter is formed by exotic particles that don't interact with regular matter, or even light. It is hypothesized that its invisible nature can be explained by dark photons that wouldn't interact with the regular matter.

In aid of this, the CERN are now looking for this through an NA64 experiment.

"To use a metaphor, an otherwise impossible dialogue between two people not speaking the same language (visible and dark matter) can be enabled by a mediator (the dark photon), who understands one language and speaks the other one," Sergei Gninenko, spokesperson for the NA64 collaboration, said in a statement.

CERN scientists believe that while in the natural world, the electromagnetic force is carried by a photon, the dark force could also be carried by a dark photon. In the experiment, the scientists will look for this "mysterious interaction."

At present, dark electromagnetism model has been conceptualized. Forbes explained that in this model, dark photons and regular photons would interact slightly through a process known as mixing, and this would have a subtle effect on particle interactions.

The mixing will be observed by the scientists by forming an isolated environment. IB Times said that the NA64 experiment would consist of a completely airtight detector placed on a high-energy beam line that carries electrons whose initial energy is known precisely. Photons detected are expected to be equivalent to the electrons. Thus, any change in the amount of energy would mean that there is yet another undetected particle in the dark area.

Finding the dark photon would mean changing everything we know about dark matter and the universe. But as Science Alert noted, until direct observation of dark photons is made, it will remain hypothetical.

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