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Have Scientist Discovered Hints of Dark Matter?

Update Date: Apr 03, 2013 09:26 PM EDT

An experiment at the International Space Station announced found evidence of "new physical phenomena" that could represent dark matter, the mysterious stuff that serves as the gravitational foundation for galaxies, an international team of researchers announced in Switzerland on Wednesday.

The experiment is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is led by Nobel laureate Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and involves hundreds of scientists from all over the world. The latest data will be published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Ting announced the findings in Geneva at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, the particle physics laboratory known as CERN.

The evidence was found by a $2 billion instrument aboard the international space station called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS). Although it has not seen dark matter directly as it is invisible, yet its presence is felt by the immense gravitational tug it exerts on stars, galaxies and other cosmic bodies. Dark matter is thought to make up about a quarter of all the matter in the universe.

It has been a long mystery what Dark Matter consists of. One of the leading candidates is a WIMP, or weakly interacting massive particle.

WIMPs are elusive. They rarely interact with normal matter such as atoms; indeed, billions of WIMPs may be darting right through the Earth every second without hitting anything.

\"This is the decade of the WIMP," said Michael Turner, a cosmologist at the University of Chicago, according to the Wall Street Journal. "All of these experiments are zeroing in on the outrageous idea that most of the matter in the universe is" made up of WIMPs, a new form of matter.

The AMS will be measuring cosmic rays, where the footprints are found, until 2020 or so. Other scientists commended the findings and look forward to more.

"This is an 80-year-old detective story and we are getting close to the end," said University of Chicago physicist Michael Turner, one of the giants in the field of dark matter, according to the Associated Press. "This is a tantalizing clue and further results from AMS could finish the story."

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