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MAY 1, 2003
Scientists aim to throw light on Dark Matter

LONDON - British scientists equipped with state-of-the-art detectors deep underground in northern England have begun a search for one of the most tantalising secrets of the universe - Dark Matter.

'If we are successful in our quest, then we are looking at a place in the history books,' Dr Neil Spooner of Sheffield University said on Tuesday. 'This will be one of the great discoveries of our time.'

Teams of scientists around the world are racing to be the first to discover the truth about Dark Matter, which cannot be seen because it does not emit light. They believe it makes up the vast majority of the universe.

Scientists say stars account for less than 1 per cent of the mass of the universe, with gas clouds and other objects accounting for close to another 5 per cent. No one is quite sure what makes up the missing remainder, which has been dubbed Dark Matter.

In a bid to identify the prime suspect known as Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or Wimps, British scientists have installed highly sensitive detectors 1.1 km down a salt mine at Boulby on the North Yorkshire moors.

They are buried deep underground in an area of low natural radioactivity, where intervening rock should shield them from interference and filter out cosmic bombardment.

'This is an outstanding research facility equipped with some of the world's most sensitive Dark Matter detectors,' Mr Ian Halliday, chief executive of the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council, said in a statement.

'It is a crucial addition to Britain's resources in a research field where British scientists are playing a world-leading role - the race by physicists around the globe to discover these exotic, as yet undetected, Dark Matter particles,' he added. \-- Reuters

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