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Dark matter hints spied in antimatter particles? [NASA video]

April 03, 2013|By Amina Khan

Has an instrument aboard the International Space Station detected a sign of dark matter?

Scientists have been on pins and needles since Samuel Ting, an MIT physicist and Nobel laureate who leads the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment, coyly demurred from discussing his cosmic ray experiments’ findings at a meeting in February, saying they’d be ready to discuss the results in a matter of weeks.

With the results now being released by Physical Review Letters, he’s set to discuss the findings at a 10:30 a.m. NASA briefing this morning, which you can watch in the video above.
The $1.6-billion Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer was ferried to the International Space Station by the shuttle Endeavour and installed in 2011. Since its installation, the cosmic ray experiment has logged some 25 billion particle events.

Among those, Ting says they’ve identified about 400,000 positrons — the largest number of energetic antimatter particles ever directly analyzed in space.

Scientists think that when dark matter decays, it releases matter and antimatter particles, including positrons. But pulsars, rotating neutron stars that hurl radiation into space, could also be causing the strange abundance of positrons seen in the data.

This is far from the final word on the matter: The mission is just two years into a multi-year mission.

Questions? Post them below and we’ll try to get them answered at the news conference above.

Follow me on Twitter @aminawrite.

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