“The exact shape of the spectrum …, extended to higher energies, will ultimately determine whether this spectrum originates from the collision of dark matter particles or from pulsars in the galaxy,” the collaboration stated. “The high level of accuracy of this data shows that AMS will soon resolve this issue.”
Ting said a definitive answer may be available in “a year or two.” He was speaking from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva, where he and his colleagues presented their first findings.
The AMS can be thought of as a spaceborne version of the Large Hadron Collider, a particle accelerator at CERN. But while particle collisions in ground-based accelerators have yet to produce definite evidence of dark matter, the AMS is open to the sky from its perch on the starboard truss of the ISS, and its detectors receive a flood of particles around the clock for analysis on the ground.
The AMS is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, with NASA handling the ISS deployment and operation. Among nations providing instruments and other hardware are Italy, Germany, Spain, France, Taiwan, China and Switzerland. It was delivered to the station by space shuttle Endeavour during STS-134, which launched May 16, 2011.
“Space station is a really nice platform, well suited for this instrument,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate NASA administrator for human exploration and operations. “It allows for a long, long duration of observation time, which is important to this instrument. We can essentially use decades of observation time, which will help produce statistics in certain low-frequency events.”