These illustrations, taken from computer simulations, show a swarm of dark matter clumps around our Milky Way galaxy. Image released July 10, 2012.
Credit: J. Tumlinson (STScI)
NASA chief Charles Bolden is beaming.
The news today (April 3) that the International Space Station has played a pivotal role in what could be one of the biggest leaps forward for astrophysics has left the NASA Administrator with nothing but high praise.
The news stems from the station's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer, which detected signals that just might be evidence of dark matter particles colliding and annihilating each other. (Of course, it could be something else, too. The science team has not yet confirmed the signal is definitely from dark matter, but it is a tantalizing possibility.)
Here's what Bolden says about today's AMS announcement, which NASA sent out to reporters this afternoon:
"The AMS cosmic ray particle results announced today could help foster a new understanding of the fields of fundamental physics and astrophysics. I am confident that this is only the first of many scientific discoveries enabled by the station that will change our understanding of the universe. Multiple NASA human spaceflight centers around the country played important roles in this work, and we look forward to many more exciting results from AMS.
"For more than 50 years, NASA has pushed the boundaries beyond Earth to unveil the underlying architecture of the cosmos, revealing new knowledge about our place within it. The International Space Station is a gateway to the universe, teaching us how humans can live, work, and thrive in space as we endeavor to venture deeper into the solar system. It's a remarkable testament that the orbital laboratory could play such an important supporting role in research at the very smallest scale of the physical universe. It's proof positive the space station is humanity's greatest achievement in low-Earth orbit."
The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a complicated (and expensive) instrument launched to the space station in May 2011 on one of NASA's last-ever shuttle missions. The $2 billion instrument is the result of 16 years of work by 200 scientists from 16 different countries and 56 different institutions.