Jun 25, 2009 | 15
Dark matter, written into theory to explain the behavior of massive celestial objects far above us, could be detected by heading down below—nearly a mile into the Earth. That’s the hope, anyway, of an experiment scheduled to begin next year in a South Dakota gold mine that closed in 2002.
The Sanford Underground Laboratory, dedicated this week 4,850 feet (1.5 kilometers) belowground at the Homestake Mine in Lead, S.D., will be home to the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter detector, among other experiments. Dark matter is the mysterious, invisible stuff believed to contribute roughly six times as much mass to the universe as does ordinary matter—the atoms, molecules and structures of everyday life. Its effects have been seen in its gravitational pull on large-scale structures in the universe, but its true nature remains unknown.
Jan 5, 2009 | 1
LONG BEACH, CALIF.—One of the unnerving aspects of astronomy as a science is how astronomers continue to argue over measurements you’d have thought they settled long ago. A good recent example is the mass of our own Milky Way galaxy. Estimates keep swinging back and forth, and our galaxy and the Andromeda galaxy periodically switch places as the alpha galaxy of the local cosmos. A new study announced at the American Astronomical Society's conference suggests that astronomers may finally be starting to converge on a consensus—and, in a counterexample to the usual trend of relegating humanity to the cosmic backwaters, our Milky Way looks like the bigger one after all. (My colleague Steve Mirsky also describes the study on today’s podcast.)
To weigh the Milky Way, Mark Reid of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and his colleagues tracked the motion of bright gaseous clouds in 12 star-forming regions scattered over the galaxy. They observed the clouds with the Very Long Baseline Array, a network of radio telescopes stretching from Hawaii to St. Croix which work in unison as a single planet-sized telescope. The network is so sharp-eyed that it can see clouds on the other side of the galaxy inching across the sky. The team combined these observations with measurements of the Doppler effect to deduce the clouds’ full three-dimensional orbital velocity: 254 +/– 16 kilometers per second.
Sep 30, 2008 | 15
A federal judge has tossed out a case challenging the operation of the world's biggest particle accelerator—not that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is running, anyway.
Judge Helen Gillmor of the U.S. District Court in Hawaii dismissed the lawsuit Friday, saying the American judicial system has no jurisdiction over the $8-billion LHC, which is housed in a circular tunnel straddling the Swiss-French border. The New York Times is reporting on the dismissal today.
The suit was filed by a retired radiation safety officer, Walter Wagner, and Spanish science writer Luis Sancho, MSNBC's Cosmic Log has previously noted. The two claimed that the operator of the LHC, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and its backers failed to show that smashing protons at nearly the speed of light wouldn't produce mini black holes that could obliterate Earth.
Sep 19, 2008 | 8
Did the group spearheading the world's biggest physics experiment just not want to spoil the party?
Within hours of its launch, the Large Hadron Collider malfunctioned, its operator has admitted — a week after powerful particle accelerator was turned on, the Associated Press is reporting.
A 30-ton transformer that cools part of the particle smasher broke on Sept. 11 after scientists sent a counter-clockwise beam around the 17-mile tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border, raising temperatures in the ring to 4.5 Kelvin (-451.57 Fahrenheit). The first, clockwise beam had been sent around the tunnel the day before, when the LHC was turned on.
Sep 10, 2008 | 52
The particle-smashing Large Hadron Collider(LHC) is up and running, and we're still here.
"We've got a beam on the LHC," project leader Lyn Evans told his colleagues to applause after the machine finished coaxing a beam of protons around the 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel at 10:28 a.m. CEST (4:28 a.m. ET).
“There it is! There it is!” shouted the announcer from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, according to a live blog of the event on Symmetry Breaking. “Congratulations! This is astonishingly fast.” The test took about an hour to complete after CERN injected the proton beam into the LHC.
Jul 3, 2008
Less than a month after entering orbit, NASA's Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (GLAST) is powered up and ready to go. Project scientists at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California have begun receiving data from the satellite's Large Area Telescope, one of two instruments it will use to scan the sky for energetic gamma rays, the space agency reported today. Launched on June 11, GLAST is designed to study galactic powerhouses including black holes, pulsars and gamma-ray bursts and could potentially detect dark matter as well. Researchers plan to spend the next two months calibrating the instruments to make sure they know what they're seeing as the data starts rolling in.
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