Ellie Mak L&S Math & Physical Sciences
The Magnetometer for the GAPS Antarctic Balloon Mission
Approximately 85% of the Universe’s mass consists of an invisible non-atomic material called dark matter. It has shaped our Universe, including the formation and evolution of galaxies, and without it, humans would not exist. However, despite both its centrality in cosmology and decades of experimentation, the microscopic characteristics of dark matter particles are still unknown. This project focuses on detecting the products of possible dark matter self-annihilation in the Galaxy to reveal its origin and particle characteristics; however, the large and uncertain astrophysical backgrounds pose a challenge.
GAPS is a NASA balloon experiment designed to detect low-energy cosmic-ray antideuterons as a unique signature of dark matter decay. The astrophysical background for low-energy antideuterons is suppressed by several orders of magnitude relative to the dark matter signature, therefore, even one antideuteron would indicate new physics. GAPS is currently in the integration and testing phase at Berkeley’s Space Sciences Lab. My project centers the development of the magnetometer, a critical component of the instrument which monitors the orientation of the balloon in space.