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Discover magazine ranks dark matter finding a top 2006 science discovery

ATHENS, Ohio (Jan. 10, 2007) -- The discovery of dark matter, made by an astrophysicist who is now an Ohio University faculty member, has been ranked the No. 3 science finding of the year by Discover magazine. 

In its cover story on the "Top 100 Science Stories of 2006," the magazine highlighted research led by Douglas Clowe, then a postdoctoral student with the University of Arizona at Tucson, on a violent collision between a pair of massive galaxy clusters. Using a technique known as gravitational lensing, Clowe and colleagues from Stanford, Harvard and the University of Florida found the most direct evidence yet of dark matter, the invisible substance thought to make up 80 percent of the universe. 

The team, which used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and several major telescopes to conduct the research, made international headlines with the discovery in August. 

"The science has been very well received," said Clowe, who joined Ohio University as an assistant professor of physics and astronomy this fall. Though there are a small handful of detractors, in general "the astronomy and particle physics community was overjoyed that they could finally show some evidence of dark matter," he noted. 

Clowe, who is affiliated with the university's Astrophysical Institute and Structure of the Universe project, expects to continue his research on dark matter and will publish additional scientific papers based on the original study. 

The dark matter finding has prompted major research universities and institutes to invite him to deliver talks on his work. He spoke at institutions such as MIT, New York University, University of California at Santa Barbara and the Fermi Lab this fall, and will travel to more venues in 2007. 

The buzz in the scientific community also will help the university attract graduate students, said Clowe, who taught a graduate student seminar this fall and next will teach sophomore and freshman-level astrophysics courses in winter and spring. 

Clowe was pleased to make the No. 3 slot on Discover's Top 100 list, which is on newsstands now. "Being in a magazine like Discover gets the research out to more of the general public," he said. 

Other top science stories of the year included new development of alternative energy sources, the creation of the first artificial bladder, the rise of global warming and the demotion of Pluto as a planet. 

Ohio University researchers last appeared on the Discover magazine list in 2003 for two major discoveries that year in the field of nuclear and particle physics. 

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