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FRINATEK-Fri prosj.st. mat.,naturv.,tek

Searching for Dark Matter with Light

Alternative title: Lyser etter mørk materie

Awarded: NOK 8.0 mill.

We came a long way in exploring our universe and know today that there are billions of stars in our galaxy and millions upon millions of other galaxies in addition. Yet, modern cosmological models predict that this ordinary matter only comprises a mere 16% of the total matter content of our universe. The remaining 84% is referred to as dark matter and is as of now poorly understood. Its existence has been established by several independent observations, but so far all these observations were only indirect. The exact nature of dark matter remains unknown. Through its overwhelming abundance, dark matter played a crucial role in the evolution of our universe and thus of life itself, such that its thorough understanding is paramount to understanding the cosmos. Therefore, the understanding of dark matter is an important aim of contemporary physics and is pursued in this project. With this research, we endeavor to understand what dark matter is made of by analysing the first data taken with the Cherenkov Telescope Array. This instrument is designed to measure gamma-rays that hit the earth's atmosphere from space. The detector has not been built yet, but will soon enter its construction phase and will be the most advanced instrument of its kind once it is finished. The gain in sensitivity compared to previous telescopes can be the decisive factor to unravel the nature of dark matter as wider spectrum of gamma-rays can be studied with higher precision once the telescope takes data. During this project we have established closed collaboration with the scientists of the University of Oslo that work on CTA data analysis. We contribute to the software tools used in the CTA DM analysis and we published results on how to improve the signal estimation by modifying the event selection.

According to modern cosmological models only 16% of all matter in our universe corresponds to the known, visible matter. The other 84% is called dark matter (DM) and could so far only be observed indirectly. This is why its particle nature is poorly understood. Yet, DM played a crucial role during the evolution of our universe and thus the formation of life itself. Therefore, the understanding of DM is an important aim of contemporary physics and is pursued in this project. With this research proposal, we will endeavor to uncover the particle nature of DM by analysing the first data taken with the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). This observatory for gamma-ray astronomy is soon entering its construction phase and will outperform current telescopes by far. This leap in sensitivity can be the decisive factor to unravel the nature of DM. Therefore, now is the time to contribute to those efforts as this allows for enough time to prepare the recording of the data as well as their analysis. Project group members will engage both in the commissioning and operation of CTA and in the analysis of the first data. We will strive to improve on current analyses by refining the background estimation and by using modern machine learning algorithms. The work will be fully integrated in the Norwegian efforts to search for DM and within the CTA community. It will help the project manager to advance her career as an independent researcher and include several measures to communicate the results to the different target audiences. The proposal connects the fields of high energy physics, astroparticle physics, cosmology and computer science as we will only be ably to truly understand DM by cornering it from all angles.

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FRINATEK-Fri prosj.st. mat.,naturv.,tek