Skip to content
Surprising Science

Hunting for Dark & Anti-Matter

A cutting-edge experiment hunting for antimatter galaxies and signs of dark matter that was very nearly cancelled is finally poised to voyage into orbit aboard the next-to-last space shuttle mission.

What’s the Latest Development?

An ambitious science experiment called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer will be carried to the International Space Station (I.S.S.) this Friday aboard N.A.S.A.’s space shuttle Endeavor. The experiment will use a massively powerful magnet to analyze cosmic rays for evidence of anti-matter as well as dark matter. Originally scheduled to launch years ago, the project was cancelled after the Columbia shuttle accident in 2003. Friday’s launch will be N.A.S.A.’s second-to-last space shuttle launch ever—due to budgetary constraints, the shuttle program is being terminated.

What’s the Big Idea?

As the space shuttle program will soon end, N.A.S.A. is trying to get the most from its remaining two launches. The ambitious Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer will use a magnet capable of generating a magnetic field 3,000 times more intense than Earth’s to attract and analyze cosmic rays. Because cosmic rays can hold millions of times more energy than any particle accelerator on Earth, the experiment could yield important clues about what the universe looked like as an infant. Scientists expect some light to be shed on the existence of anti-matter as well as dark matter. 


Up Next
Philosophers may have spent many ‘sleepless nights of the soul’ contemplating the existence of God. Yet bleary-eyed physicists may have beaten them to the prize: has the so-called ‘God particle’ been discovered?