The Search for 39 Billion Missing Suns Begins

Dark_matter_galaxies-big Scientists working out of the CERN Labs in Switzerland have transported the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to NASA for preparation for space flight. The detector will aid the scientists in locating two elusive types of matter.

When the space shuttle program's final flight launches next February, it will carry on board the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, a device designed to scan space. Using the AMS as it's parked in orbit, scientists hope to find evidence regarding two types of mysterious matter about which they've hypothesized for years: dark matter and antimatter.

The AMS will search for the elusive answers to some of the most perplexing unsolved mysteries of the universe: galaxies do not seem to have enough mass for stars to orbit at their observed speeds. Galaxies should be flying apart, but they don’t. Why not? The standard cosmology, well grounded in fundamental physics, involves detailed models, whose predictions agree with, and explain, much of what astronomers see. However, there are a growing number of observations that are deeply puzzling. A number of independent astronomical observations have provided strong evidence for the existence of vast quantities of matter that do not emit or reflect electromagnetic radiation of any type (visible light, microwaves, gamma rays, etc), and thus is invisible. How do we know it’s there? Even though we cannot see it, it exerts very clear gravitational influences on the matter and radiation we can see.

"We know the gas between galaxies in the Universe was ionised early in history, but the total light from these new galaxies may not be sufficient to achieve this." said Andrew Bunker of the University of Oxford.

Did dark matter destroy this early universe?  You might be looking around at the way things "exist" and thinking "No", but we're talking about ancient history.  Three hundred million years after the start of the universe, things had finally cooled down enough to form hydrogen atoms out of all the protons and electrons that were zipping around – only to have them all ripped up again around the one billion year mark.  Why?

Most believe that the first quasars, active galaxies whose central black holes are the cosmic-ray equivalent of a firehose, provided the breakup energy, but some Fermilab scientists have another idea.  Dan Hooper and Alexander Belikov posit that invisible, self-destructing dark matter may have blown up every atom in the universe.  At least it's plausible in that if we wanted to ionize an entire universe, we'd want something that sounded that awesome.

Dark matter is a candidate for providing ionizing radiation because, if it exists at all, it's its own antiparticle: if two dark matter particles hit each other they can blow up.  Insane as it sounds, the theory predicts that despite making up most of everything the particles themselves are so tiny, and so terribly fussy about colliding, that they can form huge structures without destroying themselves.  Positron emissions which may be an indication of exactly this kind of self-destruction have been observed by the European PAMELA satellite currently orbiting the Earth.

As theories go, this one is more awesome than accepted.  The quasar hypothesis has wide support, and crediting something we've never even seen with reshaping the universe may be going a little far.  Then again, that's what modern cosmology is doing with dark matter anyway, so maybe this idea will fit right in. With the launch of the AMS, perhaps we'll find out for certain.

Scientists discovered a possible deposit of antimatter near the center of the galaxy in 1977. If that does exist, it would mean that antimatter exists naturally, and the need to make our own antimatter would be eliminated. But for now, we will have to create our own antimatter. Luckily, there is technology available to create antimatter through the use of high-energy particle colliders, also called "atom smashers."

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