This is an artist's image of the ALPHA trap which captured and stored antihydrogen atoms, whose trapped path is shown by the electric blue lines. Image Credit: Chukman So. Image Source: Physorg.
Amid April rumours that the God Particle, or Higgs Boson, the theoretical Holy Grail of Particle Physics, may have been found at CERN (the data is being verified and checked by thousands of scientists), there's a new report that the ALPHA project team working at the Large Hadron Collider has captured and studied Antimatter for 1,000 seconds. From the Telegraph:
(Hat tip: Phantoms and Monsters.) One of the questions posed in these experiments is why Antimatter is so rare. It was created when particles collided at the dawn of the universe, creating Matter and Antimatter (explained here and here). Researchers assert that there is no mirror Antimatter universe. Therefore, in their estimation, half the cosmos is missing. Scientists are seeking to verify that Antimatter particles would behave consistently if they were in a mirror universe with reversed charges and were moving backwards through time:Scientists have trapped and stored antihydrogen atoms for a record 16 minutes, a stunning technical feat that promises deeper insights into the mysteries of anti-matter. ... We can keep the antihydrogen atoms trapped for 1,000 seconds. This is long enough to begin to study them -- even with the small number that we can catch so far," said Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA team conducting the tests at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. In the study, published in the journal Nature Physics, researchers report trapping some 300 antiatoms. Scientists used CERN's high-energy accelerator to create the antihydrogen atoms, and then chilled them to near-zero temperatures. The aim is to use laser and microwave spectroscopy to compare the immobilised particles to their hydrogen counterparts.
For other reports, go here, here, here and here. CERN has a public page explaining Antimatter here. The original article at Nature Physics is here.Antimatter is a puzzle because it should have been produced in equal amounts with normal matter during the Big Bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Today, however, there is no evidence of antimatter galaxies or clouds, and antimatter is seen rarely and for only short periods, for example during some types of radioactive decay before it annihilates in a collision with normal matter.
Hence the desire to measure the properties of antiatoms in order to determine whether their electromagnetic and gravitational interactions are identical to those of normal matter. One goal is to check whether antiatoms abide by CPT symmetry, as do normal atoms. CPT (charge-parity-time) symmetry means that a particle would behave the same way in a mirror universe if it had the opposite charge and moved backward in time. “Any hint of CPT symmetry breaking would require a serious rethink of our understanding of nature,” said Jeffrey Hangst of Aarhus University in Denmark, spokesperson for the ALPHA experiment. “But half of the universe has gone missing, so some kind of rethink is apparently on the agenda.”
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