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Public invited to name China’s dark matter explorer

Updated: Sep 29,2015 8:25 PM     Xinhua

The public will have a chance to name a Chinese dark matter probe satellite expected to be launched by the end of this year.

The competition to name the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) was announced at the Purple Mountain Observatory (PMO) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in Nanjing on Sept 29. Entries from any country will be accepted until October 31 and can be submitted online at http://scitech.people.com.cn/DAMPE.

There will be five grand prize winners, 20 first prize winners, 50 second prize winners, 100 third prize winners and 500 memorial award winners. Grand prize winners will be able to watch the satellite launch in person at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

DAMPE will be the first in a program consisting of five research satellites, and its development is supported by the space science program of CAS, said Chang Jin, chief scientist of the project and PMO researcher.

Scientists believe dark matter exists based on the law of universal gravitation, but have never directly detected it.

Accounting for over a quarter of the universe’s mass-energy balance, it can only be observed indirectly through its interaction with visible matter.

Based on the standard model of cosmology, the total mass-energy of the known universe contains 4.9 percent ordinary matter, 26.8 percent dark matter and 68.3 percent dark energy.

Many scientists, including Nobel prize laureate Yang Zhenning, believe that development of dark matter theory might lead to understanding phenomena that can’t be explained with current knowledge, triggering “revolutionary progress” in physics.

DAMPE looks like an expensive and complicated four-layer cake turned upside down. It weighs 1.9 tonnes and its payload is 1.4 tonnes. The DAMPE project costs 100 million U.S. dollars and its lifespan is more than 3 years.

DAMPE will observe the direction, energy and electric charge of high-energy particles in space in search of dark matter.

The probe will orbit the earth to study the origin of cosmic rays and observe high-energy gamma rays. Original data from DAMPE could provide solid evidence for the existence of dark matter particles.

DAMPE will have the widest observation spectrum and highest energy resolution of any dark matter probe in the world.

Developers of DAMPE include PMO of CAS, University of Science and Technology of China, Institute of High Energy Physics of CAS, Institute of Modern Physics of CAS, National Space Science Center of CAS, University of Geneva and University of Perugia.

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