China Launches Probe To Hunt For Dark Matter

China Launches Probe
An illustration of China's new dark matter detection probe. Photo by DPNC

SHANGHAI, Dec. 18 (UPI) — China is joining the hunt for dark matter. On Friday, the nation announced it had successfully launched its Dark Matter Particle Explorer into orbit.

The probe blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch site in the Gansu province of northwest China. It was carried into low Earth orbit by a Chinese Long March 2D rocket. In China, the probe has been dubbed Wukong, or “Monkey King.”

The probe’s dark matter detector was designed by engineers at the Shanghai Engineering Center for Microsatellites.

“DAMPE satellite will observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter,” Chang Jin, chief scientist on the project, told reporters at a press briefing held by SECM earlier this year.

The device combines a series of detection technologies designed to sense and measure high energy electrons, gamma rays and cosmic rays. It’s expected to be more sensitive than previous detectors.

“DAMPE will have unprecedented sensitivity and energy reach for electrons, photons and cosmic rays,” researchers claim on the project’s homepage.

DAMPE is just the first of several planned missions, all with ambitious goals. In 2016, China will launch a quantum-science satellite, designed to test a particle physics theory known as quantum entanglement.

Following will be the Hard X-ray Modulation Telescope, which will look for short blasts of radiation that signal the presence of a growing black hole.

All of these projects are largely the work of engineers, astronomers and physicists with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The United States is legally forbidden from working with China on space projects except under rare circumstances, while the European Space Agency has already begun to team up with Chinese scientists on a number of projects.

“It gave a good chance for the Europeans,” Wu Ji, director-general of the National Space Science Center, said of the severed ties. “The U.S. should realize that.”


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