Chinese satellite detects mysterious signals from outer space


Beijing: China’s Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) has spotted unexpected and mysterious signals in its measurement of high-energy cosmic rays.

The satellite, also called Wukong or “Monkey King”, has measured more than 3.5 billion cosmic ray particles with the highest energy up to 100 tera-electron-volts (TeV), including 20 million electrons and positrons, with unprecedented high energy resolution, reports Xinhua news agency.

This might bring scientists a step closer to shedding light on invisible dark matter.

“DAMPE has opened a new window for observing the high-energy universe, unveiling new physical phenomena beyond our current understanding,” Chang Jin, chief scientist of DAMPE and vice director of the Purple Mountain Observatory of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), said on Thursday.

The initial detection results on the precise measurement of the electron and positron spectrum in an energy range between 25 giga-electron-volts (GeV) and 4.6 TeV were published in the latest issue of the academic journal, Nature.

Precise measurement of cosmic rays, especially at the very high energy range, are important for scientists to look for traces of dark matter annihilation or decay, as well as to understand the universe’s most energetic astrophysical phenomena, such as pulsars, active galaxy nuclei and supernova explosions.

“Our data may inspire some new ideas in particle physics and astrophysics,” said Chang.

Dark matter, which cannot be seen or touched, passes right through us as if we don’t exist. The ghost-like material is one of the great mysteries of science.

Scientists calculate that normal matter, such as galaxies, stars, trees, rocks and atoms, accounts for only about 5 per cent of the universe. However, about 26.8 per cent of the universe is dark matter and 68.3 per cent dark energy.

DAMPE was sent into an orbit of about 500km above the earth on December 17, 2015.

Also dedicated to exploring the evidence of annihilation or decay of dark matter particles in space are NASA’s Fermi Space Telescope and the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS-02), a state-of-the-art particle physics detector operating on the International Space Station (ISS).

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