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Space Station Becomes Dark Matter Hunter

Soulskill posted more than 3 years ago | from the stealthily-stalking-its-prey dept.

ISS 40

CWmike writes "With a new $2 billion device successfully installed Thursday, the International Space Station has become a dark matter hunter. Two robotic arms worked in tandem to lift the 15,251-pound instrument, called the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer-2, out of space shuttle Endeavour's payload bay and then attached it to the backbone of the space station. The instrument will orbit the Earth, sifting through cosmic particles and providing data that it is hoped will help find the answers to fundamental questions of physics related to antimatter and dark matter."

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40 comments

Great! (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195176)

A new reality show: Aldebaron: Dark Matter Hunter.

Re:Great! (1)

IceNinjaNine (2026774) | more than 3 years ago | (#36201832)

Crikey!

first crap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195188)

on all slashdotters

Isn't that expensive? (1)

Kamiza Ikioi (893310) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195226)

I know we have done dark matter tests in deep mines, and we also test with super colliders. But this is just a box that sits there right? What's the advantage of this over one in a mine that justifies the cost, which I'm sure is much more than an earth based solution. It seems to me that dark matter, which doesn't directly interact with matter anyways, would be more suitable in the deep mines away from space/solar radiation, not sitting directly out in it.

Re:Isn't that expensive? (-1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195362)

its in space (echo)

yea I know, we all could have thought of better things to do with a couple bil that would have actually helped us with problems we currently face, but no a dream of future humons is much more important than reality of now

Re:Isn't that expensive? (4, Informative)

Ruie (30480) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195406)

The big advantage of AMS [wikipedia.org] is that it sits above the atmosphere and can observe high-energy cosmic rays that never reach Earth surface.

The original plans called for a cryogenic magnet. It is interesting to note that they have gotten to the point where the system estimated lifetime would be 3 years, but swapped it for a permanent magnet version in the end.

I imagine this was quite challenging as loss of cooling/superconductivity would result in an explosion - not a good thing to have. And that loss can simply result from a high-energy cosmic ray striking a tiny superconducting wire. Somehow they found a way around this..

Re:Isn't that expensive? (1)

sconeu (64226) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196040)

I imagine this was quite challenging as loss of cooling/superconductivity would result in an explosion

Sounds rather like this [imdb.com] .

THink of it this way (2)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195424)

It's probably a much better return on investment than dropping a few dozen bombs over the Libyan desert.

Re:THink of it this way (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195580)

Sir, you don't understand the US Government Business model at all

Re:THink of it this way (1)

IrquiM (471313) | more than 3 years ago | (#36203826)

That's bull! We (Norway) made 10 times the amount of money that we spent on the bombs we dropped - Go higher oil prices!

Re:Isn't that expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195546)

What wasn't really mentioned in the article is how AMS looks for dark matter. In this case they are looking for an excessive amount of high energy positrons (or possibly antiprotons) that would deviate from the predicted rates from standard cosmic ray physics. This would be an indication of dark matter particles annihilating in the galaxy releasing all their rest mass into charged particles or gamma-rays. Though an extremely rare occurrence due to their feeble cross-section an appreciable amount of dark matter annihilation would occur in the large volume of galactic space that this "indirect" detection technique could possibly sniff out.

AMS can be thought of as a large cosmic ray telescope. Analogous to a Hubble for charged particles instead of light. All kinds of interesting things can be learned.

Re:Isn't that expensive? (4, Informative)

radtea (464814) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195566)

What's the advantage of this over one in a mine that justifies the cost

Primary cosmic rays are much simpler animals than secondary cosmic rays. Primary cosmic rays are almost 100% protons, which almost never reach the surface of the Earth because they interact with the atmosphere and create cosmic ray "showers" that are rich and complex, full of muons and gamma rays and prolific in neutron production as well. Even fairly deep underground dealing with these backgrounds is a complicated process.

Having only primary cosmic rays to deal with makes life somewhat easier. There may also be dark matter signals that are too low energy to penetrate the Earth's atmosphere--that is, weak signals in the low-energy cosmic ray background due to dark matter collisions or decays integrated over a very large volume.

The ideal place to do this kind of work is on the Moon: because it has no atmosphere, pions produced by cosmic ray protons will come to a halt before they decay, so there are only low-energy muons produced. Thus, a couple of metres of rock on the Moon will give you shielding as good as a much thicker layer on Earth.

Re:Isn't that expensive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36200434)

Dark matter is believed to bend light. It some sort of intergalactic optical camoflage. That said when you do experiments on earth, you have to deal with indirect light that is much more difficult to resolve, hence we still not realy know a lot about it. The second point is that we want to understand what it means for the universe, something that is also hard to measure from inside our earths atmosphere, so it is kind of the Hubble telescope of dark matter.

There is also a third advantage: it's so extremely sensitive that we might also find other wierd stuff not related to antimatter/dark matter.

budget? we don't need no stinkin' budget! (2)

demonbug (309515) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195280)

From the wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] :

In 1999, after the successful flight of AMS-01, the total cost of the AMS program was estimated to be $33 million, with AMS-02 planned for flight to the ISS in 2003. After the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003, and after a number of technical difficulties with the construction of AMS-02, the cost of the program ballooned to an estimated $1.5 billion.

So... the cost ballooned from $33 million to $1.5 billion? That has to be one of the biggest cost overruns in history. Not to say that it won't perform valuable observations; I just find it amazing that initial estimates were so wildly off, and yet it still got built and launched.

Re:budget? we don't need no stinkin' budget! (1)

Ruie (30480) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195336)

It got built a long time ago, it was just waiting for the promised shuttle launch.

Re:budget? we don't need no stinkin' budget! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195612)

Although it got built a while ago, the experimenters changed out the magnet for a different one in 2010. This didn't require a redesign but it is not a trivial modification either.

Moron (2)

arcite (661011) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195454)

If we harness the power of dark matter we will be kings of the universe. Can you really put a price on that?

Re:Moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195904)

lol. retard alert.

how exactly do you expect to "harness the power of dark matter"?

Re:Moron (1)

OhioJoe (178138) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196118)

lol. retard alert.

how exactly do you expect to "harness the power of dark matter"?

So, what is it about dark matter that makes it so it can't be harnessed? :) I'm being facetious somewhat, since we don't know what dark matter is, and can only see the massive effects of it in a macro view of space.

However, he might mean that if dark matter is made up of particular particles, then we can 'collect or create' those particles into an array so as to create gravity in space, for one. Propulsion in our atmosphere for another. Really, there is a ton of things we could do if we found it and knew how to manipulate it.

Re:Moron (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36196030)

If im one of the few being excedingly and obscenely well payed to later 'control' the universe and being paid to do it...uhmm no, no price for that, whatever it is, its not enough. i want..err it needs more!

Re:budget? we don't need no stinkin' budget! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36200326)

Might also be good for tracking ships that are powered by/with dark matter?
We need to know when these "visitors" drop by. You know; kinda like an automatic door bell.

Re:budget? we don't need no stinkin' budget! (1)

vuo (156163) | more than 3 years ago | (#36200404)

I think $33 million was the cost of the prototype AMS-01, not the full-scale AMS-02. Wikipedia is NOT helpful this time, there's just a dead link to a secondary source. Second, AMS-02 had to be redesigned and was also postponed.

15,251 (1)

mythosaz (572040) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195316)

That's how much it weighed in space?!?

Re:15,251 (2)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195496)

No no... Re-read it:

"... a new $2 billion device ... Two robotic arms worked in tandem to lift the 15,251-pound instrument,"

They're delivering science and wall-street news all at once. Translation:

New Space Station attachment deployed.
Also, the US dollar has attained an all-time low of 131138.94 to one vs the British pound.

You should know that both NASA and the US Military use SI units; The only ones left using the crappy empirical units are the general public...

FTWA [wikipedia.org]

The [SI] system has been nearly globally adopted. Three principal exceptions are Myanmar (Burma), Liberia, and the United States.

This is clearly a ploy to oppress the common folk with antiquated and difficult to use measures.

Seriously? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36195416)

"Dark Matter Hunter". A Syfy original movie...?

Hunter??? (1)

spire3661 (1038968) | more than 3 years ago | (#36195418)

Sounds more like a gatherer than a 'hunter'

Dark matter? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36196036)

AMS actually measures antimatter. IF they happen to find an excess THEN a POSSIBLE interpretation will be due to decaying dark matter. It is a stretch to claim that it is looking for dark matter. Regardless, the results of the experiment could turn out to be exciting.

It's not a $2 Billion device (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196042)

It's $4 Billion.

Costs pinches be damned on this one (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196066)

I don't care how much it costs. The investment is small compared to the knowledge gained and future return on investment.

The only device that can see raw cosmic rays (1)

physburn (1095481) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196160)

This is the only device in the world, that can measure cosmic rays before they enter the atmosphere. Measuring the primary protons and nucleii from cosmic rays, before they break up in showers of secondary particles. I doubt actually though that it will measure dark matter, as dark matter is neutral and won't interact with the magnetic fields in the AMS.

---

Space Science [feeddistiller.com] Feed @ Feed Distiller [feeddistiller.com]

Re:The only device that can see raw cosmic rays (2)

Mindcontrolled (1388007) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196310)

As far as I understand, they don't want to measure dark matter directly, but rather anomalous peaks in the energy spectra of the directly detected cosmic rays that are predicted by certain theories about dark matter, in particular, effects of neutralino-neutralion collisions, that would result in detectable particles at certain energies.

Re:The only device that can see raw cosmic rays (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36196578)

Actually the PAMELA experiment is essentially a mini-AMS and has been up in space for a few years now. AMS is far larger though and will blow the PAMELA dataset away in a few days of live-time.

http://pamela.roma2.infn.it/index.php

And after that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36196182)

it will look for Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and Gay Republicans!

THIS IS A WHITE WASH! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36196234)

Check it out, not too many negros. This is an outrage.

participants [ams02.org]

Why ISS? (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36196590)

Just out of curiousity, is there a good reason that this is perched on the International Space Station rather than just being it's own satellite? Does it need maintenance or something like that?

Re:Why ISS? (1)

underlord_999 (812134) | more than 3 years ago | (#36197948)

I haven't read the engineering summary on the AMS-02, but off the top of my head, there are many benefits of having it on the ISS:

1) Crew access to it in case anything goes wrong (i.e. for repairs or modifications)
Crew continually rotate through the ISS and could potentially go on a spacewalk to investigate / repair anything mechanically wrong with the module. If it were on a different orbital plane, we won't have a crew vehicle (read: space shuttle) capable of getting to it now that the space shuttle is being retired. It makes sense to attach it to the ISS for this purpose, since the ISS is resupplied and re-crewed at regular intervals.

2) No need for independent transmission / control / power systems.
The AMS-02 module can link up to the proven communications systems on the ISS and this can reduce cost / weight and improve redundancy.

3) Falls into existing thermal / environmental protection procedures.
Beta angles and other interactions with the Sun (heating) and the environment (micrometeroid / debris) are already monitored and calculated for the ISS. This also reduces cost and improves lifetime of the expensive equipment.

Re:Why ISS? (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 3 years ago | (#36198190)

Just out of curiousity, is there a good reason that this is perched on the International Space Station rather than just being it's own satellite? Does it need maintenance or something like that?

Future expansion is assured with a Space Station.

Re:Why ISS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36216876)

It's a power thing. This thing has a hefty power usage, and ISS just happens to have a nice large solar power array.

meanwhile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36197550)

...lots of kids die of STARVING around the world just below the iss

Re:meanwhile (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36214610)

...lots of kids die of STARVING around the world just below the iss

I think the US military should be the first place to look for spending cuts rather than the peaceful space program.

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