Science marks another breakthrough discovery. Daily Galaxy mentions Ethan Brown, assistant professor of physics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute as reporting the following:
“We saw this decay happen. It’s the longest, slowest process that has ever been directly observed, and our dark matter detector was sensitive enough to measure it. It’s amazing to have witnessed this process, and it says that our detector can measure the rarest thing ever recorded.”
An instrument built to find dark matter has been used
If you’re wondering how can a process that takes more than a trillion times longer than the age of Universe, well the answer is this – the XENON Collaboration research team achieved the whole thing with an instrument built to find the most elusive particle in the universe—dark matter.
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, researchers announced that they had observed the “radioactive decay of xenon-124, which has a half-life of 1.8 X 1022 years,” the online publication mentioned above notes.
The XENON Collaboration runs XENON1T which is a 1,300 km vat of super pure liquid xenon that’s shielded from the cosmic rays in a cryostat which is submerged in water deep 1,500 m beneath the Gran Sasso mountains in Italy.
Researchers are reportedly searching for dark matter by recording tiny flashes of light that are created when particles are interacting with xenon inside this detector.
XENON1T has been built with the main aim of capturing the interaction between a dark matter particle and the nucleus of a xenon atom. But what this detector is actually picking up are signals from any interactions with the xenon.
Evidence for xenon decay
The evidence for xenon decay has been produced as a proton inside the nucleus of a xenon atom managed to convert into a neutron. This only happens when one electron is pulled into the nucleus.
On the other hand, a proton in a xenon atom must absorb two electrons in order to be able to convert into a neutron, and this event is called “double-electron capture.”
“Electrons in double-capture are removed from the innermost shell around the nucleus, and that creates room in that shell,” said Brown via the online magazine mentioned above.
He continued and explained that “The remaining electrons collapse to the ground state, and we saw this collapse process in our detector.”
The tremendous achievement marks the very first time experts have measured the half-life of this xenon isotope based on direct observation of its radioactive decay.
I have been blogging and posting articles for over eight years, but my passion for writing dates back in 2000. I am especially enthusiastic about technology, science, and health-related issues. When I’m not researching and writing the latest news, I’m either watching sci-fi and horror movies or checking out places worth visiting and building deep memories for later in life. I believe in empathy and continually improving myself.