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We went around the world searching for dark matter

An abandoned gold mine ​in South Dakota and the dry desert of Chile are two key sites where the scientific work is happening.

by Lyle Kendrick
Jan 30 2018, 2:00pm

An abandoned gold mine in South Dakota and the dry desert of Chile are two key sites where scientists are working to understand the forces of dark matter and dark energy that comprise the vast majority of our universe.

The 5 percent of matter we can perceive abides by the laws of physics as we understand them; the other 95 percent of our universe is dark matter and dark energy. But when scientists applied the laws of gravity to try to explain how fast nearby galaxies are rotating, the math didn't add up.

Dr. Bruno Leibundgut, an astronomer at the European Southern Observatory, and his team are in Chile utilizing the most powerful telescope on Earth — its actual name is the Very Large Telescope (VLT) — to figure out just how much the universe's expansion is accelerating.

"Who knows what discoveries and impacts on our lives will come," Leibundgut said.

And in the abandoned gold mine, a mile beneath the Black Hills of South Dakota, another team of scientists are using a massive tank of supercooled liquid xenon as they wait for photosensors to measure an elusive dark matter particle.

Nuclear physicist and VICE correspondent Taylor Wilson went to meet these scientists as they try to solve the greatest mystery of the universe.

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