Australian dark matter hunter wins AU$1.75 million funding

Boffins to delve for secrets of the universe in former gold mine

In among the continuing bad-news stories for science funding in Australia, the federal government has at least found some spare coins for dark matter research.

It did, at least, find money in the budget to sling AU$1.75 million towards the planned Stawell Underground Physics Laboratory.

The lab would convert a played-out mine in the Victorian town of Stawell – more famous for an annual footrace, the Stawell Gift – into a dark matter hunter. Underground locations are favoured in the search for the elusive particles that make up more than a quarter of the universe, because the Earth's bulk helps filter out cosmic rays and earth-bound noise.

If it gets built, the detector would use Sodium Iodide with Active Background Rejection – SABRE – as the basis of its experiments.

This would replicate northern hemisphere SABRE experiments and help identify promising signals.

As Vulture South reported last year, the southern hemisphere detector would look for peaks in possible dark matter signals already observed in the northern hemisphere, do decide whether the peaks are dark matter or are something of terrestrial origin.

The money is coming from a regional development fund, and members of the project include the Australian National University, Melbourne University, Swinburne University, the University of Adelaide, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, Princeton University, and Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics.

The University of Melbourne release says UK researchers have expressed interest in hosting their own dark matter experiment at the Stawell site. ®

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