November 27, 2021

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Scientists May Have Finally Detected Dark Energy

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Deep below the Gran Sasso, the second-highest mountain in Italy, lies a research facility built specifically to find dark energy. The Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso is home to the XENON dark energy research project.

The project aims to detect dark matter by looking at abnormally interacting particles in liquid xenon (xe) chamber. Over 14 years after the project started in 2006, the third iteration of the project, the XENON1T experiment may have finally found evidence of dark energy.

Last year, researchers working on the XENON1T project detected an unexpected signal, which couldn’t be explained. Now, a new study led by University of Cambridge researchers suggests that the unexplained results from the experiment may have partly been caused by dark energy. In simple terms, the experiment designed to detect dark energy, itself might have been influenced by dark energy.

To explain the puzzling results, from the experiment, researchers constructed a physical model and said that the results could have been influenced by dark energy particles produced by the sun, in regions with strong magnetic fields. The researchers have also said that future experiments are required to confirm their hypothesis.

Dark energy (not to be confused with dark matter) is a mysterious phenomenon that is thought to be responsible for accelerating the expansion of the universe. When we launched the Hubble space telescope in the late 1990s, astronomers pointed it towards distant supernovae and discovered that the universe was expanding more slowly than it is currently. This discovery was startling since the universe was thought to be slowing down due to the effects of gravity.

Gravity pulls things together, and since the universe is full of things with mass, over time the universe has to slow down expanding and eventually implode and collapse. Yet, the expansion of the universe was accelerating.

So, something must have been acting against gravity and pushing the universe farther. That something is thought to be Dark energy.

Dark energy acts in opposition to the force of gravity. While gravity pulls things closer, dark energy pushes them away. Scientists think close to 70 percent of the mass-energy in the universe is dark energy, its actual nature has so far remained a mystery.

Cover Image: Shutterstock

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