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Dark matter detector nearing activation in SD mine

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Photo -   In this July 31, 2012 photo provided by Sanford Lab researchers work on the top floor of the Large Underground Xenon experiment at a shuttered gold mine in Lead, S.D. The experiment, known as LUX, could begin collecting data on dark matter as early as February _ and, if all goes as planned, that data could answer age-old questions about the universe and its origins, scientists said Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Courtesy Sanford Lab, Matt Kapust)
In this July 31, 2012 photo provided by Sanford Lab researchers work on the top floor of the Large Underground Xenon experiment at a shuttered gold mine in Lead, S.D. The experiment, known as LUX, could begin collecting data on dark matter as early as February _ and, if all goes as planned, that data could answer age-old questions about the universe and its origins, scientists said Monday, Nov. 19, 2012. (AP Photo/Courtesy Sanford Lab, Matt Kapust)
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Scientists hoping to detect dark matter deep in a former South Dakota gold mine have taken the last major step before flipping the switch on their painstakingly delicate experiment.

Harry Nelson, a University of California, Santa Barbara physics professor and a principal investigator on the Large Underground Xenon experiment, says the team has finished submerging its phone booth-sized detector in a 70,000-gallon vat of purified water. The process took more than two months.

He said Monday that the team could be ready to begin collecting data by February.

Scientists know dark matter exists but haven't been able to detect it. Regular matter accounts for about 4 percent of the universe's mass, dark matter accounts for about 25 percent and the rest is mysterious dark energy.

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