China plans to launch dark matter probe
Updated: 2015-05-30 21:20
SHANGHAI - Chinese scientists are planning to launch a dark matter probe satellite by the end of this year, researchers with the project announced on Friday.
The dark matter particle explorer (DAMPE) satellite will observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter, said Chang Jin, chief scientist of the project, at a press briefing held by the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites (SECM).
All key components of the satellite have been tested and are functioning well, and it is expected to launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center by the end of this year, the SECM said.
The satellite is designed to function for three years.
The probe, the first satellite in a program consisting of five research satellites, will also be used to study the origin of cosmic rays and observe high-energy gamma rays.
At the press briefing, Chang said DAMPE will have the widest observation spectrum and highest energy resolution of any dark matter probe in the world.
Dark matter is one of the most important mysteries of physics. Scientists believe in its existence based on the law of universal gravitation, but have never directly detected it.
Accounting for over a quarter of the universe's mass-energy balance, it can only be observed indirectly through its interaction with visible matter.
Many scientists, such as Nobel prize winner in physics Yang Zhenning, believe that development of dark matter theory may help people understand phenomena that can't be explained with current knowledge, triggering "revolutionary progress" in physics.
The space study program also plans to launch three more satellites within the next two years, including one retrievable scientific research satellite, one for quantum science experiments, as well as a hard X-ray telescope for black hole and neutron star studies.
SECM is a non-profit organization established by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shanghai Municipal Government.