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The quiet search for dark matter deep underground

One of the quietest, darkest places in the cosmos isn’t out in the depths of space. It’s at the center of a tank of cold liquid xenon in a gold mine deep under the Black Hills of South Dakota. It needs to be that quiet: any stray particles could confuse the detectors lining the outside of the tank. Those detectors are looking for faint, rare signals, ones that could reveal the presence of dark matter. The whole assembly—the container of liquid and gaseous xenon, the water tank enveloping that, and all the detectors—is called the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) dark matter experiment. So far, LUX hasn’t found anything, but the days of its operation are just beginning: the detector was installed and started operations just last year. Though still relatively young, LUX has already set many standards for hunting for dark matter particles. When I visited, the facility was gearing up for the next data collection run, one that will involve 300 days of constant operation. The size and sensitivity of the experiment, its designers’ dedication to understanding any noise sources, and the relative simplicity of the detector lead many to hope that if there’s any dark matter to be found, LUX—or its successor—will find it. Read much more via Ars Technica.

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