PAMELA is looking for dark matter

Mission is to prove existence of antimatter in the universe

The PAMELA flight model before the integration University of Rome
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How are mass and energy distributed in the universe? Astrophysicists have not yet found an answer to this question. However, it is clear that the so-called dark matter plays an important role. Although their existence is theoretically predicted, it has not yet been proven. But this could change soon. Scientists from six countries want to track down dark matter within the PAMELA (Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light nuclei Astrophysics) project. The mission embarked on its three-year journey aboard a Soyuz rocket from Baikonur on 15 June 2006.


The total mass of the universe is supposed to consist of about five percent of "normal" matter, 20 percent dark matter and 75 percent dark energy, ie non-luminous energy that does not emit electromagnetic waves. As sites of dark matter, astronomers expect mostly very large bubbles with about 1, 000 light years diameter. The speed of these particles can be up to about nine kilometers per second, which suggests temperatures up to about 10, 000 degrees Celsius.

The PAMELA mission examines both the origin of high-energy "normal" matter and its propagation in interstellar space, as well as the nature of dark matter. For this purpose, PAMELA measures particles and antiparticles from outer space, the so-called cosmic radiation, in order to study their formation and acceleration. Scientists from Italy, Sweden, Russia, USA and India as well as the German Aerospace Center (DLR) and the University of Siegen are working together to prove the existence or absence of antimatter in the Universe.

Matter or antimatter?

The experiment consists of a magnetic spectrometer, which is used in combination with a calorimeter to determine the heat capacities in the investigated regions and an air time-of-flight instrument. The devices examine the high energy particles from deep space for charge, charge sign (matter or antimatter), momentum and mass. display

PAMELA has started as the second payload of the Russian exploration satellite Resurs-DK-1. Resurs-DK1 is a multi-spectral remote sensing satellite with sensors operating in the visible light range. PAMELA is housed in a side-mounted pressure container, which is pivotally mounted on the satellite. The mission is controlled from NTsOMZ ground station near Moscow.

The experiment is under the scientific direction of Professor Piergiorgio Picozza of the University of Rome. PAMELA was developed and built with funds from the National Institute of Fisica Nucleare (INFN) and the Space Agencies of Italy (ASI) and Russia (RKA).

(German Aerospace Center (DLR), 16.06.2006 - DLO)