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Search for Dark Matter Leads to Australian Gold Mine

The search for dark matter has led to the Large Hadron Collider (nothing yet) and to deep black corners of outer space (inconclusive). Where should scientists look next? If you said, “In an Australian gold mine,” you must own an Australian gold mine and are looking for ways to make it pay for itself once the gold runs out. Or you’ve heard about the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory (SUPL) that is setting up a dark matter detector in the Stawell Gold Mine in Victoria in January 2017.

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Heading to the Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory

Why look for dark matter in the Stawell Gold Mine? For starters, because it’s deep, dark and accessible. A 15 km (9.3 mile) tunnel leads to a 10-by-35 meter (33-by-115 ft.) open area carved into solid rock and reinforced with bolts and concrete. The miles of solid rock above it will keep cosmic rays from interfering with the southern half of the SABRE (Sodium-iodide with Active Background REjection) detector. SABRE is an “incredibly pure” crystal of sodium iodide which will emit a flash of light when dark matter collides with the nucleus of one of its atoms.

Setting up the lab

Setting up the lab

The northern half of the experiment is already operational in the underground Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy which uses thallium-doped sodium iodide crystals that also give off light when hit by dark matter. In fact, that actually there as part of the DAMA (Dark Matter)-LIBRA experiment, a predecessor to SABRE.

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Unfortunately, that detection was deemed inconsistent because of a phenomenon known as “annual modulation.” The amount of dark matter around Earth is expected to change as the planet orbits the Sun, causing a seasonal variation in collisions. DAMA-LIBRA saw this but more sensitive dark matter detectors in other labs (LUX and XENON) have not. Putting a second SABRE detector in the southern hemisphere should allow the researchers to rule out differences caused by seasonal variations.

That’s the theory. We’ll find out if dark matter really does exist in Australian gold mines when the SABRE experiment begins operation in the Stawell Gold Mine in late 2017.

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  • Wayne Sloan

    One question begs an answer…How did they get the idea that an extremely pure crystal of sodium will emit light when it comes in contact with dark matter?

  • SirWilhelm

    I don’t like to make predictions, but, I’ll make an exception for these experiments, because I am confident that Dark Matter does not exist. So, my prediction is that these experiments to detect Dark Matter, will also fail, just as the experiments to detect gravity waves and Dark Energy have failed. Electric Universe theory has, or is developing, theories to explain all the phenomena that led to the invention of Dark Matter and Dark Energy to explain them. There appears to be an electrical element in gravity, too. If these scientists truly used the scientific method, their Dark theories would have been falsified by now. Instead, they spend millions of dollars on more experiments that also fail. If that money was put into Electric Universe research, there may be great benefits resulting. If there is an electric component to gravity, it could lead to anti-gravity drives, for instance. Despite Newton’s discovery of the Laws of Gravity, long ago, we still don’t know what gravity is, or how it works.