Dark matter is focus of global contest

University astronomers are inviting people around the world to help solve one of science's enduring mysteries.

Researchers have launched a public competition to help them learn more about dark matter.

The material accounts for 95 per cent of the mass of the universe, but cannot be seen and is little understood.

Astronomers from the University have joined forces with crowdsourcing data science website Kaggle and Winton Capital Management to find people who are interested in taking up the challenge.

Cash prizes

By encouraging thousands of people to focus on a problem, we have a good chance of making progress quickly. This competition could make a real difference in solving an enigma that has puzzled astronomers for decades.

David HarveySchool of Physics and Astronomy

The scientists behind the contest hope that it will inspire thousands of people to tackle the problem, using a variety of techniques.

Researchers expect the competition to attract people who solve numerical problems for a living, such as scientists, statisticians and data engineers.

They hope that a solution may be found by adapting an existing problem-solving tool from a field of expertise outside astronomy.

Prizes of US$12,000, US$5,000 and US$3,000 are being provided by Winton, which uses similar data science techniques to build automated trading systems for financial markets.

Hubble images

Scientists want to develop ways to analyse images of these galaxy clusters, taken by the Hubble telescope.

This will enable them to better understand how the clusters have been formed, and create a map of dark matter, giving insight into its make-up.

The competition, Observing Dark Worlds, can be found at and entrants have until 16 December to submit their ideas.

Winton is delighted to support this competition because understanding dark matter is one of the great scientific challenges of the 21st century.

David HardingFounder, Chairman and Head of Research, Winton Capital Management