Meeting in Madrid: 50 Physicists Dive into the Mystery of Dark Matter

Meeting in Madrid: 50 Physicists Dive into the Mystery of Dark Matter
  • The eighth IBS-MultiDark-ICTP meeting between theoretical and experimental physicists held in Madrid tackles the quest for answers to the mysteries of dark matter using innovative approaches.


The Institute for Theoretical Physics (IFT), belonging to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM), hosted this week the eighth edition of the IBS-MultiDark-ICTP workshop dedicated to the physics of dark matter. In collaboration with the MultiDark project, the event brought together 50 experts, including theoretical and experimental physicists, aiming to foster collaboration and the exchange of ideas in the pursuit of answers to the mysteries of dark matter.


The meeting comprised 25 talks covering a wide range of topics in the field of particle physics and cosmology. The high-energy physics group from ICTP joined the event, further strengthening the network of researchers dedicated to understanding dark matter. Additionally, the MultiDark project, a multimessenger approach to dark matter detection, consists of approximately 10 theoretical, experimental, and astrophysics groups from around 20 Spanish research institutions and universities. The Institute for Basic Science (IBS), comprises 40 centers, including three experimental and theoretical ones on particle physics and cosmology:


pie de foto: 
participantes del octavo congreso IBS-MultiDark-ICTP

The Mystery of Dark Matter, Abundant Yet Elusive


It is estimated that dark matter constitutes approximately 27% of the observable universe. The rest of the universe's content mainly comprises the matter we are familiar with (atoms and molecules), representing only 5% of the universe, and dark energy, accounting for approximately 68% and responsible for the accelerated expansion of the universe. After decades of research, its nature remains unidentified, posing one of the most intriguing open problems in physics.


Despite having detectable gravitational effects, dark matter neither emits nor interacts with light or electromagnetic radiation, making it impossible to observe directly with telescopes or other optical instruments. Thus, how do we study it? What tools can we use to attempt its detection?


Different Approaches to Detect Dark Matter


Clues for identifying this intriguing form of matter may be found in particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider or LHC at CERN. Sven Heinemeyer, a researcher at IFT and one of the coordinators of the workshop held in Madrid, highlighted the significance of investigating dark matter through the supersymmetry model in particle accelerators: "Excesses in LHC data that could be related to dark matter have been observed. We are working on interpreting these results in our model and comparing them with data from previous years to identify potential candidates to reveal the nature of dark matter."


But there are some other interesting approaches to address this enigma. During the meeting, Marina Cermeño, a postdoctoral researcher at IFT, provided a unique perspective on supernova explosions and their relation to dark matter: "Using measurements from supernova SN 1987A, we can test particle physics models beyond the Standard Model, exploring the connection between the neutrinos' mass—very light particles with no electric charge that barely interact with matter—and dark matter," she explained.


Another approach to detecting dark matter does not take place on Earth's surface but surprisingly from the depths of our planet. This is what the Underground Laboratory of Canfranc, located 850 meters underground in the Aragonese Pyrenees, is dedicated to—detectors seeking hypothetical interactions between dark matter particles and the atoms composing ordinary matter. Maria Luisa Sarsa, from the University of Zaragoza and a participant in the meeting, works on the ANAIS-112 experiment, collecting data in Canfranc since 2017. "ANAIS-112 seeks direct detection through the annual modulation in the annual interaction rates of dark matter particles due to the Earth's movement around the Sun," explained Sarsa.


Among the most innovative approaches stands out that of José Valle, from the Institute of Corpuscular Physics (IFIC), who is one of the speakers at the workshop. Valle addressed the connection between neutrino mass generation and dark matter: "Among the key problems in physics is the fundamental explanation of the universe's dark matter and neutrino oscillations. I have proposed the idea that neutrino mass generation (2015 Nobel Prize) may be connected to explaining dark matter. That is, dark matter could be what triggers neutrinos to have mass, thus explaining two enigmas at once," noted Valle.


In short, the combination of theoretical and experimental approaches aims to pave a promising path towards unraveling the enigma of dark matter, which constitutes a significant yet elusive part of the universe.


The Institute for Theoretical Physics (IFT) UAM-CSIC was officially created in 2003 as a joint research center belonging to the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and the Autonomous University of Madrid (UAM). It is the only Spanish center dedicated entirely to research in Theoretical Physics. The IFT members develop research in the frontiers of Elementary Particle Physics, Astroparticles and Cosmology, in order to understand the fundamental keys of Nature and the Universe. They are also leading many research projects, both at the national and international level. The IFT is part of the strategic line `Theoretical Physics and Mathematics´ of the Campus of International Excellence (CEI) UAM+CSIC established in 2009. Since 2012, it is credited as Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence. Besides purely scientific activity, in the IFT is also conducted intensive training tasks of young researchers and professionals through the graduate program in Theoretical Physics with mention of excellence from the CEI and the Ministry of Education. In addition, the Institute carries out the important task of transferring knowledge to society through several outreach programs.


For more information and interviews, please contact:

Laura Marcos Mateos

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