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How GPS can find elusive dark matter

The Global Positioning System (GPS) might be an effective tool in directly detecting and measuring dark matter - so far an elusive but ubiquitous form of matter responsible for the formation of galaxi

  • Updated: November 18, 2014 1:47 PM IST
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The Global Positioning System (GPS) might be an effective tool in directly detecting and measuring dark matter – so far an elusive but ubiquitous form of matter responsible for the formation of galaxies.

Andrei Derevianko from University of Nevada, Reno, and his colleague Maxim Pospelov from University of Victoria and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, have proposed a method for a dark-matter search with GPS satellites and other atomic clock networks. The duo is starting to test the dark matter detection ideas by analysing clock data from the 30 GPS satellites which use atomic clocks for everyday navigation. “Despite solid observational evidence for the existence of dark matter, its nature remains a mystery,” Derevianko said.

Modern physics and cosmology fail dramatically in that they can only explain five percent of mass and energy in the universe in the form of ordinary matter, but the rest is a mystery. There is evidence that dark energy is about 68 percent of the mystery mass and energy. The remaining 27 percent is generally acknowledged to be dark matter even though it is not visible and eludes direct detection and measurement. “Our research pursues the idea that dark matter may be organised as a large gas-like collection of topological defects or energy cracks,” Derevianko said. The Earth sweeps through this gas as it orbits the galaxy.

So to us, the gas would appear to be like a galactic wind of dark matter blowing through the Earth system and its satellites. As the dark matter blows by, it would occasionally cause clocks of the GPS system to go out of sync with a tell-tale pattern over a period of about three minutes. “If the dark matter causes the clocks to go out of sync by more than a billionth of a second we should easily be able to detect such events,” researchers said.

The paper appeared in the scientific journal Nature Physics.

  • Published Date: November 18, 2014 1:39 PM IST
  • Updated Date: November 18, 2014 1:47 PM IST