Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – One of the universe’s open questions may be a step closer to being answered thanks to over 30 atoms of antihydrogen that have been trapped and stored by scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, Cern.
This opens the path to new ways of making detailed measurements of antihydrogen, Cern notes in a written statement 18 November. It will allow scientists to compare matter and antimatter, the latter being what annihilates ordinary matter in a single explosive flash of energy.
The finding is related to the re-creation of the mini Big Bang at Cern in early November.
“At the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have been produced in equal amounts. However, we know that our world is made up of matter: antimatter seems to have disappeared,” says Cern. Investigating a “tiny difference in the properties of matter and antimatter could point towards an explanation of what happened.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that University of Berkeley scientists that participated in the project were able to conceive and design the magnetic trap that successfully kept atoms of antimatter from destroying themselves the instant they hit the ordinary matter of the containers where they were made.
The Cern experiment shows that it is possible to hold on to atoms of antihydrogen for about a tenth of a second, or long enough to study them using the Berkeley method. Of the many thousands of antiatoms the experiment created, 38 were trapped long enough to study.
The first nine atoms of man-made antihydrogen were produced at Cern in 1995.
Cern-produced video on what antimatter is and how the experiment worked