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For years, some physicists have rowed against the tide, controversially claiming that they’ve found the universe’s elusive dark matter, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. A new experiment makes that upstream paddling even more of a challenge.

Observations of the cosmos indicate that an invisible, unknown type of subatomic particle must pervade the universe. The extra mass this dark matter provides is necessary to explain the motions of stars within galaxies and how matter clumps together in the universe. Despite a slew of experiments, no one has ever conclusively spotted the particles (SN: 11/12/16, p. 14).

The DAMA/LIBRA experiment, at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory near L’Aquila, is the one outlier; researchers there say that they have strong evidence that dark matter is interacting in their detector. Now an experiment called COSINE-100 has searched for the particles using the same type of detector as DAMA, and found no signs of dark matter, scientists report online December 5 in Nature.

 “I think this is one more nail in the coffin,” says astrophysicist Dan Hooper of Fermilab in Batavia, Ill., who was not involved with the research. Earlier experiments using different types of detectors have likewise tried and failed to reproduce DAMA’s results.

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Category: Science