Are we on the way to solving the mystery of dark matter?

Are we on the way to solving the mystery of dark matter? Weizmann Institute scientists participating in the XENON1T trial, together with 165 scientists from 27 research institutes around the world, reported this week that they had set a limit to the dark matter's cut with normal matter. Following these results, Dr. Ran Bodnick, his research team at the Weizmann Institute of Science and their international partners, are planning a larger and more sensitive trial - XENONnT - already in 2019.

Dark matter is about 83% of the total matter in the universe, but it is invisible to us because it does not emit light and has very weak interactions with normal matter. The particles that are thought to consist of dark matter are called "massive particles with weak interactions" (WIMPs). The "Xenon 1 ton" project is at the forefront of the search for these particles and the results reported this week were achieved thanks to data collected over a year from a probe containing more than a tonne of liquid xenon gas in liquid form.

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In the tunnel beneath the Gran Sasso mountain in Italy's Apennines, the detector waits for a signal to report a WIMP interaction with a xenon atom by a tiny flash of flickering light and a handful of ionized electrons emitting tiny flashes of light. Dr. Bodnick and his team from the Department of Particle Physics and Astrophysics at the Weizmann Institute of Science are responsible for the control systems of the experiment, their calibration, and the statistical interpretation and analysis of the collected data.

Since the first experiment of Xenon in 2005, scientists have increased the potential target mass from 5 kg to 1,300 kg, while reducing background noise by 5,000 times. The next edition of the experiment will increase the target mass fourfold, while reducing the "noise" tenfold. "Because the XENON1T experiment is so precise and clean," says Bodnick, "the fact that no background events were detected in the purest area of ​​the detector means that we can now set a limit for WIMPs interactions with normal matter. The new detector will allow us to search for these particles in a range that has not been noticed so far. "

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