After a first run of more than three months, operating a mile underground in the Black Hills, a new experiment named LUX (Large Underground Xenon) has proven itself the most sensitive dark matter detector in the world.
"It means it only interacts with conventional material," said co-spokesperson for LUX, Rick Gaitskell. "Very rarely we have to create an incredibly quiet environment."
Because the environment is so radioactively quiet, Gaitskell and other researchers at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead may be able to detect weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs, which are the leading theoretical candidates for dark matter.
Dark matter, so far observed only by its gravitational effects on galaxies and clusters of galaxies, is the predominant form of matter in the universe, making up 24 percent.
"The hope it that we will reach a sufficiently sensitive level that we can actually see the dark matter events for the first time," said Gaitskell. "It is clear that even in our local galaxy that the vast majority of mass in our galaxy is not visible."
LUX detected particles in more radioactively quiet areas than any other experiment in the world. Gaitskell says LUX is 20 time more sensitive than any other scientific instrument used to look for WIMPs.
"It's humbling that people would place so much confidence in us and allow us to do this experiment," said co-speaker for LUX, Dan McKinsey.
LUX will continue for the next two years.