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Unique Dark Matter Detector

Unique Dark Matter Detector takes up residence at Whitby Museum


A unique piece of scientific equipment has arrived at Whitby Museum ahead of an exhibition in which it will play the starring role.


The Dark Matter Detector ZEPLIN-III, which has been donated to the museum by Imperial College London, will be the centrepiece of Whitby and the Cosmos: the Search for Dark Matter, which opens at Whitby Museum on Saturday 16 February and runs until Saturday 20 July.


Until recently, ZEPLIN-III was operational at Boulby Underground Laboratory, just north of Whitby. At the heart of the spectacular-looking is a xenon chamber to detect WIMPs (Weakly Interactive Massive Particles), which are thought to constitute Dark Matter.


The donation of ZEPLIN-III was organised by Henrique Araujo, Professor of Physics at Imperial College, one of the world’s leading experts on Dark Matter. He leads the UK team developing the next generation of LUX-Zeplin experiments, as well as developing radiation detection instruments for spacecraft. 

ZEPLIN-III was delivered to the museum and installed by Professor Araujo, along with colleagues Doctor Pawel Majewski, a dark matter expert from the UK Science and Technology Facilities Council’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, and Imperial College’s Professor Tim Sumner, who initiated the ZEPLIN-III programme and was part of a team considered for the Nobel Prize in physics in 2016 for his work on gravitational waves.


Focusing on the part played by the North Yorkshire town in our understanding of the universe, Whitby and the Cosmos: the Search for Dark Matter will first look at Captain Cook, who was born at Marton, near Middlesbrough, and was an apprentice in Whitby. His 1768 voyage was commissioned by the Royal Society of London to map the transit of Venus. This marked a huge step forward in scientific knowledge by allowing astronomers to calculate the distance from the earth to the sun and to all the other planets.  


It will also explore the groundbreaking work still underway at Boulby Underground Laboratory at the working polyhalite mine, ICL Boulby. Over a kilometre below the surface of the earth, it is the only deep underground science facility in the UK, where studies can be carried out almost entirely free of interference from natural background radiation. 


Science projects at Boulby Underground Laboratory range from astrophysics (including the search for Dark Matter), to ultra-low background material screening, studies of geology/geophysics, climate, the environment, and life in extreme environments on earth and beyond.


In between, visitors can learn how to get involved in astronomy through the annual Dark Skies Festival organised by the North York Moors National Park, and through local organisations such as Whitby & District Astronomical Society.

Curator Roger Osborne says: “We’re thrilled to be getting this beautiful and cutting-edge piece of scientific equipment for the museum. The exhibition will be spectacular, a real treat for visitors.”


Whitby and the Cosmos: the Search for Dark Matter runs from 16 February to 20 July. The museum is open from 9.30am to 4.30pm every day except Monday.

The opening weeks of Whitby and the Cosmos: the Search for Dark Matter are part of the North York Moors National Park’s Dark Skies Festival.

The exhibition is part of the Royal Society’s Places of Science scheme.

Whitby Museum is grateful for the support of Imperial College, London, Boulby Underground Laboratory and ICL, owners of Boulby Mine.

For more information on the exhibition, and Whitby Museum:

For further information on Boulby Underground Laboratory:

Earlier Event: February 12
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