PARIS .- Antimatter atoms of antihydrogen, were trapped for more than 16 minutes during an experiment at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva, which should facilitate the study of antimatter.
“We were able to trap atoms of antihydrogen for 1,000 seconds,” time “long enough to begin to study them,” said Jeffrey HangStan (University of Aarhus, Denmark) on behalf of the participants in the ALPHA experiment at CERN.
Matter in a mirror-state of that which we know, antimatter, is still difficult to observe because every atom of antimatter is destroyed when it comes into contact with normal matter, producing an enormous amount of energy.
A hydrogen atom consists of a proton of positive charge and a negatively charged electron. An atom of antihydrogen is composed of a negative proton (antiproton) and a positive electron (positron).
Matter and antimatter were created by the same amount in the moments following the Big Bang, but the only one left is normal matter. What happened to the antimatter? This question tortures physicists, and they are trying to find the answers by analyzing properties of antimatter they create in particle accelerators.
In 1995, CERN had managed to create a first atoms of antihydrogen, but they where destroyed almost instantly in contact with the surrounding matter. ALPHA at CERN team had recently achieved a breakthrough in designing a new type of magnetic trap allowed to keep 38 atoms of antihydrogen for 0.17 seconds.
This retention period has been extended to 1,000 seconds, according to a study published Sunday by the journal Nature Physics.
309 antimatter atoms were trapped long enough to “begin to study their properties in detail,” said a CERN statement. From now on, another question facing physicists is whether antimatter is subject to antigravity.
Discovering this “repulsive gravity” could provide an answer to another mystery, the unknown power that favored accelerating the universe’s expansion.