Scientists believe that the Global Positioning System (GPS) could be used in directly detecting and measuring the elusive dark matter. GPS is widely used for navigation purposes. But two researchers have proposed a method to detect dark matter using GPS satellites and other atomic clock networks to compare time from the clocks and look for discrepancies.

Dark matter eludes direct detection

Dark matter is a ubiquitous form of matter, which is believed to be responsible for the formation of galaxies. Until now, scientists have been able to explain only 5% of mass and energy in the universe, which is in the form of ordinary matter. The remaining 95% is still a mystery. There is evidence that dark energy makes up 68% of the total mass and energy of the universe, and another 27% is dark matter. Note that dark matter is not visible; it eludes direct detection.

The identification and detection of dark matter have been very difficult due to its rare interaction with ordinary matter. Tow physicists, Andrei Derevianko of the University of Nevada and Maxim Pospelov of the University of Victoria have proposed a method that was well-received by the scientific community when they presented its theory at various conferences this year.

Existing assumptions may not be true

Derevianko and Pospelov published their paper in the Nov.17 issue of the journal Nature Physics. They noted that some scientists in particle physics assume that the dark matter is made up of heavy particle-like matter. Derevianko says this assumption may not be true at all. Derevianko and Pospelov’s study is based on the idea that dark matter might be a “large gas-like collection of topological defects” or energy cracks.

GPS Dark matter


They have proposed to detect these defects with the help of GPS satellites and a network of sensitive atomic clocks. Scientists have begun to test the idea by analyzing clock data from as many as 30 GPS satellites that use atomic clocks. The initially synchronized clocks would become desynchronized when the topological defect, or the dark matter, passes by. The time discrepancies between clocks are expected to show a distinct pattern.