22 Feb 2016



90% of the universe is missing; CYGNUS is one of many experiments trying to find it.




Dark matter, thought to make up 90% of the mass of the universe, is a catch all term for a group of theorised particles which are heavy, weakly interacting​ and invisible. These particles, if discovered, would provide scientists with a much deeper insight into the nature of the universe. At present, the favoured dark matter candidate is the WIMP particle (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle), which would require a low background environment in order to identify.

The CYGNUS project is Boulby Underground Laboratory's contribution to the search for dark matter. CYGNUS is a detector with directional sensitivity allowing it to indicate the origin of any incident particle detected. This technique is expected to provide the strongest signature in the case of a positive WIMP detection, as well as enabling progress towards post-detection dark matter WIMP halo astronomy.

CYGNUS is a 1m3 gas-filled Time Projection Chamber (TPC) using electronegative gas to reduce diffusion, giving maximum track reconstruction resolution. CYGNUS can operate in either spin-dependent or spin-independent mode depending on the fill gas mixture used.

Participating institutions:

  • Sheffield University
  • Edinburgh University
  • Occidental College
  • MIT
  • University of New Mexico
  • Colorado State University​