China’s dark matter space probe detects tantalizing signal

A long-standing challenge in physics has been finding evidence for dark matter, the stuff presumed to make up a substantial chunk of the mass of the universe. Its existence seems to be responsible for the structure of the universe and the formation and evolution of galaxies. But physicists have yet to observe this mysterious material.

Results reported today by a China-led space science mission provide a tantalizing hint—but not firm evidence—for dark matter. Perhaps more significantly, the first observational data produced by China’s first mission dedicated to astrophysics shows that the country is set to become a force in space science, says David Spergel, an astrophysicist at Princeton University. China is now “making significant contributions to astrophysics and space science,” he says.

Physicists have inferred the existence of dark matter from its gravitational effect on visible matter. But it has never been observed.

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