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New lab designed to study dark matter is now under construction

Construction crews have now started building the deepest underground science laboratory in the world, which scientists will use to study dark matter.

"The fact that we're going to be in the Davis Cavern just tickles us pink," Case Western Reserve University researcher Tom Shutt told the Associated Press.  The cavern used to be a gold mine that has been abandoned for some time now.  The part of the mine called Davis Cavern is named after Ray Davis Jr., a scientists who used the mine to study solar neutrinos in the 1960s.

The research lab, located at a depth equivalent to six Empire State buildings, will be used to help scientists study dark matter.  Being almost 5,000 feet under the Earth's surface is an ideal location as cosmic rays likely won't interfere with research, but it will be some time before researchers are able to begin working there.

Engineers and construction crews must now stabilize and repair some of the tunnels, and add new safety infrastructure to prevent tunnel collapse.  Research already is being conducted at 4,850 feet, with Congress mulling two labs that would go even deeper than the one now being built.  

Case Western Reserve University, Brown University, and a couple of other universities and research groups are helping develop the new underground science laboratory.  Around a dozen total collaborators plan to research dark matter at the facility.

The Large Underground Xenon (LUX) detector equipment -- a project aimed at studying the Big Bang explosion -- is expected to be the first dark matter experiment.

Dark matter is a popular topic of research because many astronomers believe galaxies may have never formed without dark matter.  Furthermore, the theory behind dark matter and what it is remains a mystery -- learning more about dark matter may help physicists finally figure out if the universe is expanding or contracting.

The lab should be fully operational by 2016.




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