Published: 24 June 2014

Academic reports on the hunt for dark matter

Speaking at the Astroparticle Physics conference, Professor Justin Read reveals how precise data is enabling us to learn more about dark matter – the ‘glue’ that holds galaxies together.

Taking place from 23 to 28 June in Amsterdam, Astroparticle Physics 2014 brought together leading members of the global scientific community to present and discuss the latest advances in astroparticle physics and our knowledge of the seemingly invisible matter (‘dark matter’) that they believe fills our universe.

Giving his plenary talk on the second day of the conference, Professor Read focused on the continuing search for the ‘dark matter disc’ that he has previously predicted – along with Professor George Lake from the University of Zurich – must exist in our Galaxy. The fact that such a ‘dark disc’ has not yet been detected implies that the Milky Way must have had a particularly quiet past with very few galactic mergers after the disc formed.

“Not only does this research give us an interesting insight into the past history of our Galaxy,” said Professor Read, “it also helps physicists to understand local dark matter density, which is vitally important in experiments to detect dark matter. These experiments aim to prove something that is becoming increasingly likely: that dark matter comprises some new particle of nature – a particle beyond the ‘standard model’ of particle physics.

“Calculating the ‘flow’ of dark matter particles – which depends mainly on the local density of dark matter – can now be done using astronomical observations. The latest data is enabling us to detect dark matter within a few hundred light years of the Sun, and also to begin to probe the shape of the dark matter that shrouds our Galactic disc.”

Professor Read added, “It is really fantastic to have the opportunity to share ideas with physicists across such a wide range of disciplines from experimental physics to particle physics to astrophysics. It is only by bringing together such broad expertise that we will discover the true nature of the ‘dark matter’ that appears to comprise most of the mass of the Universe.”

Read Professor Read’s full presentation, ‘The local dark matter density: new constraints on the Milky Way’s dark disc and the local shape of the Milky Way halo’ and abstract.

The results of Professor Read’s research have also been published recently in a review article on the ‘local dark matter density’ in the Journal of Physics G: Nuclear and Particle Physics.

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