Dec 27, 2022

A Dune-inspired spacecraft could finally reveal what dark matter is made of

Posted by in category: cosmology

Instead, this nimble satellite will punch hugely above its weight and try to track down one of the most elusive and mysterious substances in the universe: dark matter. This is the term given to the hypothetical invisible matter that is thought to be more abundant than normal matter and has a similar gravitational effect on its surroundings.

The mission is classified as fast (F), which means it is smaller, more focused, and has a quicker turnaround (less than 10 years to launch) than other types of ESA missions. The agency’s previous F-mission, selected in 2019, is called the Comet Interceptor. Already parked at a stable point in the Solar System, this probe is waiting for a comet to show up and fly by it, something that’s due to happen around the time that Arrakhis launches in the early 2030s.

Since dark matter still eludes detection, the mission will target sources of light that are sensitive to it. We expect normal matter — the stuff that actually emits light, such as stars in galaxies — to move primarily under the influence of dark matter, which is more abundant.

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