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Bringing dark matter to light

The Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre hosted two events celebrating International Dark Matter Day.

  • Engineers Sean Crawford and Jacob Morrisson display a model of a NEWS-G sphere they built.
    Engineers Sean Crawford and Jacob Morrisson display a model of a NEWS-G sphere they built.
  • Large crowds gather in the foyer of Stirling Hall to check out the Dark Matter Day live demos and get some treats.
    Large crowds gather in the foyer of Stirling Hall to check out the Dark Matter Day live demos and get some treats.
  • PhD candidate Matthew Chequers explains how astronomers are simulating the structure of dark matter in the universe using high-powered computing clusters
    PhD candidate Matthew Chequers explains how astronomers are simulating the structure of dark matter in the universe using high-powered computing clusters
  • The in-house speaker, CPARC's own Joseph Bramante, explains the link between dark matter, neutron stars, and heavy elements to a packed house at Stirling Hall.
    The in-house speaker, CPARC's own Joseph Bramante, explains the link between dark matter, neutron stars, and heavy elements to a packed house at Stirling Hall.
  • MSc candidate Joseph McLaughlin performs the ceremonial dumping of the liquid nitrogen to close the night's events.
    MSc candidate Joseph McLaughlin performs the ceremonial dumping of the liquid nitrogen to close the night's events.
  • MSc candidate Joe McLaughlin explains how the DEAP-3600 experiment will use liquid argon to detect dark matter particles.
    MSc candidate Joe McLaughlin explains how the DEAP-3600 experiment will use liquid argon to detect dark matter particles.

There are still many puzzles in our universe to be solved, but few are quite as puzzling as dark matter.

The invisible matter does not glow or absorb light, yet it makes up about 85 per cent of all matter in the universe. Luckily, astronomers and physicists from all over Canada are on the case.

The Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre and Queen's University, in collaboration with the Dunlap Institute at the University of Toronto, hosted its first public event on Oct. 23 to celebrate International Dark Matter Day. The talk began with an inspiring message from newly-appointed Governor General Julie Payette, and the event itself featured several astronomers and physicists performing cutting-edge research on the subject of dark matter. The event also had live demos by Queen's astronomers and experimental physicists taking part in the SNOLAB collaboration’s search for dark matter.

More than 200 people attended the public event and learned about astronomical proof of the existence of dark matter, how to perform alchemy with dark matter and neutron stars, the reseachers at SNOLAB trying to detect dark matter, and other scientists who are trying to create dark matter.

In addition to the public talk, CPARC hosted a workshop for high school students on October 30 to continue the Dark Matter Day celebrations. Led by Nathalie Ouellette, CPARC Education and Outreach Officer, 31 Grade 10 to 12 students received a primer on dark matter based on materials created by the Perimeter Institute. They also had the chance to interact with Queen's researchers who are actively trying to solve the puzzle of dark matter. The workshop concluded with an exciting display of a 14-inch telescope.

Queen’s has a strong tradition of research excellence in the field of particle astrophysics with its researchers garnering many awards, including the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 2016 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. In 2016, Queen’s received an investment of $63.7M from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) to support the creation of the CPARC. The centre aims to strengthen partnerships between Queen’s and other Canadian universities, attract top talent and build on Canada’s position as a leader in this field.

For more information on Dark Matter Day or the Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre, visit their website