NASA will unveil the first discoveries from a powerful $2 billion particle physics experiment on the International Space Station in what could be a major vindication for the science tool, which almost never made it into space. NASA will hold a news conference toady at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, April 3, to discuss the first results of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) experiment. AMS is a state-of-the-art cosmic ray particle physics detector located on the exterior of the International Space Station.
"It will not be a minor paper," said Nobel laureate Samuel Ting, a physicist at MIT on Feb. 17 during the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston, adding that it would represent a "small step" toward understanding the true nature of dark matter, even if it is not the final answer.
In an interview with BBC News in 2010, Ting stated: “This really is the very first very, very precise particle physics detector. You enter into a totally new domain. It's very hard to predict what you'll find. The space station [AMS device] can detect particles of practically unlimited energy,” Ting added, which means that it can also hunt for proposed galaxies made of the elusive dark matter.
AMS functions by sampling high-energy particles from deep space. The sensitivity of the AMS is more than 100 to 1,000 times more sensitive than previous instruments. Space-based spectrometers are not something new, but this instrument is particularly important because it represents the first one of its type to take a superconducting magnet to low-Earth orbit.
The international physics community hopes that, through measurements collected with the AMS, they will be able to answer at least a small portion of yet-unanswered, Universe-related questions that deal with the origins and the future of the Cosmos.*
The participants include: William Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations; Samuel Ting (participating by video link), AMS principal investigator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Michael Salamon, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science program manager for AMS; Mark Sistilli, NASA AMS program manager.
AMS was constructed, tested and operated by an international team of 56 institutes from 16 countries and organized under U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science sponsorship. NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston manages the AMS Integration Project Office.
AMS was launched on space shuttle Endeavour on May 16, 2011. Operations on the space station began three days later. AMS continues operations aboard the station today.
For NASA TV streaming video, scheduling and downlink information, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/ntv