Big Pic: Underground Machines For Detecting Dark Matter

Going deep underground in search of the elusive particles

Almost a mile beneath Gran Sasso mountain in Italy sits the DarkSide detector. DarkSide, which started operating in May, is designed to capture the faint signals generated by dark matter, the elusive particles that scientists suspect are partially responsible for the gravitational pull of the universe. Despite an immense international effort, scientists have yet to observe dark matter because it doesn’t frequently interact with standard matter.

The subterranean DarkSide consists of two nested chambers: a 13-foot-diameter outer sphere surrounded by 100 quartz sensors that measure background radiation, and a liquid-argon-filled inner cylinder with 38 similar sensors poised to capture flashes of light, produced if a dark-matter particle collides with an argon nucleus.

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of Popular Science_. See more stories from the magazine here._