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Scientists continue their efforts towards identifying dark matter

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From sci-fi flicks to published journal articles, the term ‘dark matter’ has often been used to describe some of the more puzzling and bizarre astronomical interactions observed by scientists. But what exactly is dark matter?

A hypothetical type of matter that has yet to be properly observed, researchers have inferred that dark matter exists as an opposing force to baryonic matter (such as neutrons and protons). It has been theorized due to the properties surrounding gravitational effects and other motions that drive not just us, but our galaxy. Physicists and astronomers believe that dark matter is part of an essential part of our world dictating motions, rotations and interactions of literally everything within our known universe.

molecules, atom illustration
molecules, atom illustration

Essentially the invisible matter than makes up the rest of our universe, it has yet to be observed, as modern technology is still not accurate enough to isolate or identify it. Part of the issue with finding dark matter is that its’ properties make it incredibly hard to find, as it does not emit or interact with electromagnetic radiation or any other type of detection technology currently available. Although it can’t be observed directly, dark matter’s influence can be seen through the behaviour of other, visible matter.

Galaxy NGC 922
Galaxy NGC 922

Whilst it can be a hard concept to grasp, and has yet to be completely evidenced, it is far from being a far-fetched idea, with the existence of dark matter is an accepted fact within the astronomical community, and scientists work around the clock to try and prove its existence. However, as aforementioned, there is nothing currently available that can detect dark matter, but other technology and scientific machinery with other primary purposes can potentially help with uncovering it.

Linac 4 accelerator Tunnel
Linac 4 Accelerator: credit CERN: Photograph: Brice, Maximilien

The Large Hadron Collider is one of the tools at their disposal, and could be the only way for scientists to observe the existence of dark matter within a laboratory environment. All other scientific equipment usually belongs to astronomers or physicists investigating other processes or phenomena, which happen to interact with dark matter in a way that may lead to an eventual – potentially accidental – discovery.

CMS_Higgs-event from data from CERN Hadron Collider
CMS_Higgs-event from data from CERN Hadron Collider source: wiki; author Lucas Taylor / CERN

Like many other theories or projects that are ahead of their time, modern technology has yet to catch up with scientific demand and hypotheses. Although we are always improving as a species, there continues to be questions that we are unable to fully prove or find evidence for, and are left to hope that future generations will be able to either confirm or dispel our theories and other concepts.

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