China has started receiving data from its first dark matter satellite named DAMPE (Dark Matter Particle Explorer). The dark matter probe was lifted using March Long 3B rocket (China’s most powerful rocket yet) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center located in Gansu province on December 17.
DAMPE has the payload of 1.9 tonnes that will be placed in a sun-synchronous orbit, nearly 500 km far from the Earth. The satellite will hunt for dark matter over next two year and will send precious data back to earth. According to Chinese space agency, a team of more than 100 scientists will observe and analyse the data received from the dark matter probe.
After searching for dark matter for two years, the probe will be used for several different missions for next three years. As per the schedule, DAMPE will be operational for five years cumulatively.
“The main scientific objective of DAMPE is to measure electrons and photons with much higher energy resolution and energy reach than achievable with existing space experiments in order to identify possible dark matter signatures,” scientists wrote in a description of the mission on the University of Geneva’s website. “It has also great potential in advancing the understanding of the origin and propagation mechanism of high energy cosmic rays, as well as in new discoveries in high energy gamma astronomy.”
Chinese scientists also call DAMPE as “Wukong”, named after the iconic Monkey King with penetrating eyes that appeared in the Chinese classical fiction “Journey to the West”.
For those who don’t know, Dark Matter cannot be seen with naked eyes and not even with telescopes. However, it is a hypothetical kind of matter that constitutes more than 85 percent of our universe. You might wonder, if we can’t see dark matter then how do we know that it exists? Actually, scientists have recorded the effect of dark matter like gravitational pull or push on the visible matter. Previous studies have suggested that the dark matter is omnipresent.
Scientists believe that studying dark matter may solve the darkest secrets of our universe and it may also unravel the mystery of birth and evolution of our universe.