Scientists announced on Wednesday that a $2 billion particle detector - the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) - that is attached to the International Space Station has detected the possible signature of dark matter annihilation in the Cosmos.
The AMS was attached to the space station in May 2011 by the space shuttle Endeavour on its second to last mission to the orbital outpost. Since being placed, the AMS has been detecting electrons and positrons originating from deep space and has been assessing their energies. Physicists hope that by tallying up the electrons and positrons, the AMS will help to answer one of the biggest mysteries in science: does dark matter exist?
It looks as though the answer may be a possible yes.
Roughly 400,000 positron detections of energies consistent with the signature of dark matter have been confirmed in the AMS' first batch of data.
Dark matter is believed to make up 80 percent of all matter in the universe, while the rest is babyonic matter, such as the stuff that we are made of. This means that the majority of matter is locked up in an invisible component of matter. This matter is dark and does not interact with electromagnetic radiation. Because dark matter still carries mass that has a gravitational effect on space-time, scientists can detect its gravitational presence through indirect means.
Scientific theory suggests that Weakly-Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs, could be a part of non-baryonic matter. WIMPs are their own anti-particles, so when two WIMPs collide, they annihilate and produce positrons and electrons. For physicists to confirm WIMP annihilation occurs, the positrons must have a specific energy signature.
Positrons with energies of 0.5 GeV to 250 GeV have been recorded by the AMS. This constitutes the largest collection of antimatter particles recorded in space. The data collected is consistent with theory that WIMPS are out in space, annihilating. Also bolstering the theory that dark matter permeates the entire universe is the fact that the positrons are originating from all directions.