Dark matter

"Dark Matter visualization," by Ralf Kaehler, Tom Abel and John Wise (SLAC)

The Standard Model of particle physics beautifully describes all visible matter in the universe. But only 5 percent of the universe is visible, which means that scientists have no idea what makes up the other 95 percent. And this is a big mystery.

Scientists call this “invisible” sector of the universe dark matter and dark energy. Dark matter and dark energy do not interact with visible matter in any normal way. For instance, dark matter doesn’t absorb or reflect light, and dark energy doesn’t generate a magnetic field or an electrical current.

But dark matter regularly interacts with normal matter though another mysterious force: gravity. Physicists see the massive fingerprint left by dark matter all over the cosmos—the rotational speed of galaxies, the movements of galaxy clusters and the bending of distant light.

So how do scientists study something that, by definition, is completely invisible to the tools we are using to study it?

Many scientists suspect that the high-energy particle collisions produced by the Large Hadron Collider could generate dark matter particles. If dark matter particles are created at the LHC, they would escape through the detectors unnoticed. By looking for large missing chunks of energy or particles that seem to suddenly disappear, scientists can indirectly hunt for the most abundant matter in the universe.

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