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China's Dark Matter Satellite Working Well

Mar 21, 2016     Email"> PrintText Size

A researcher at the Chinese Academy of Sciences explains about the data sent back from the space by Wukong in Dec. 24, 2015. (Photo/Xinhua)

The Chinese Academy of Sciences says the country's first dark-matter detection satellite has successfully completed three months of in-orbit testing, and initial findings are expected to appear before the end of the year.

Research into Dark Matter and the origins of the universe have been listed in China's 13th Five Year plan.

Since launching in December, China's Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) Satellite "Wukong" has detected 460 million high energy particles, and sent about 2.4 Terra Bytes of raw data back to Earth.

Chinese Academy of Sciences senior satellite engineer Li Huawang says Wukong has performed even better than expected.

"After 4-years of research and development, our product has met the advanced international standard in terms of the energy range, resolution ratio for energy, and direction measurement. The satellite completed all set tests, with all its technical indicators reaching or exceeding expectations. It provides us with a good operational platform for future research."

"Wukong" has four main features - a plastic scintillator array detector, a silicon array detector, a Bismuth Germanium Oxide calorimeter, and a neutron detector.

It was designed for a three-year mission, scanning space nonstop in all directions for the first two years and then focussing on areas where dark matter is most likely to be observed.

Dark matter is a hypothetical substance that is widely believed to account for around eighty five per cent of the matter in the universe, although it has not been directly observed asyet.

The dark matter hypothesis plays a central role in state-of-the-art modeling of cosmic structure formation and galaxy creation and evolution.

DAMPE chief scientist Chang Jin says the project is very exciting.

"Dark matter is at the leading edge of current science. It tops the basic frontier projects of science listed by the US, Europe, China, and Japan. Based on the laws of known physics, we had predicted and proved the existence of 61 kinds of basic particles, yet dark matter doesn't fit the characteristics of any of them. So any progress in dark matter research will probably bring a breakthrough in physics."

But at the same time, Chang Jin says there may be a long wait before the final results come out.

"So far, the satellite has worked in space for 85 days. All the devices on board won't start working until next week, measuring electrons and gamma protons. And it will take some time to collect enough high-energy particles before we can tell whether we have detected dark matters."

China has listed research into the origins of the universe as part of its 13th Five Year Plan.

In its own development plan, the Chinese Academy of Sciences has promised "major progress and breakthroughs" by 2030 in research into the formation and evolution of the universe. (CRIENGLISH.com)

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(Editor: CHEN Na)

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