SHANGHAI – A Chinese satellite has detected high-energy cosmic ray measurements, which scientists believe could shed light on dark matter, the existence of which has yet to be proven but which could make up around 25 percent of the universe, a study published on Thursday said.
A report published in the scientific journal Nature found that China’s Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) had measured more than 3.5 billion cosmic ray particles of up to 100 tera-electron-volts (TeV) and with an unprecedented energy resolution.
“DAMPE has opened a new window for observing the high-energy universe, unveiling new physical phenomena beyond our current understanding,” said chief scientist of the project, Chang Jin, as cited by state-run news agency Xinhua.
He explained that this was the first time that a space experiment had reported the detailed and precise spectrum of electrons and positrons of up to approximately five TeV.
“All the 61 elementary particles predicted by the standard model of particle physics have been found. Dark matter particles are beyond the list. So if we find a new elementary particle, it will be a breakthrough in physics,” Chang added.
The precise measurement of cosmic rays is important to scientists looking for signs of dark matter, as well as increasing their understanding of astrophysical phenomena, such as pulsars, active nuclei of galaxies and supernovas.
“Our data may inspire some new ideas in particle physics and astrophysics,” said Chang.
Dark matter, which has never been directly observed, is one of the biggest mysteries of science.
Scientists calculate that normal matter, such as galaxies, stars, trees, rocks and atoms, constitutes just five percent of the universe.
They estimate that around 26.8 percent of the universe is dark matter, and 68.3 percent is dark energy, meaning much of the universe remains a mystery.
DAMPE was sent into orbit on Dec. 17, 2015, and is part of a scientific satellites program developed by China, in parallel to those regarding Moon exploration and sending manned missions to space.