Antimatter traveling from a distance could be difficult to find as it is more likely to be destroyed when it meets regular matter. The more distance it covers across space, the higher its chances of getting annihilated increase. However, a recent study conducted with the Large Hadron Collider is suggesting that some antimatter particles can travel through the milky way galaxy without being destroyed by regular matter. How did the scientists come up with this fascinating study? Continue reading to find out.
How The Scientists Came up with the New Study
For decades, scientists thought that the antimatter version of the helium atom’s nuclei (the antihelium nuclei) is formed whenever cosmic rays make a contact with free-floating atoms. Other theories have it that the antihelium nuclei can also come into existence when particles of dark matter destroy each other. Keep in mind that dark matter is a mysterious substance that occupies most of the universe. Scientists are recently suggesting that if the antinuclei formed due to annihilations of dark matter particles were spotted, they could give rise to new properties of dark matter.
Stefan Königstorfer at the Technical University of Munich in Germany and his team of experts at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) conducted a study to discover if antinuclei created in distanced space could be detected intact from Earth using sophisticated detectors. They began the experiment by measuring how many antihelium nuclei get annihilated when they collide with regular matter inside the particle collider.
The team of scientists used the ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment) detector at the CERN particle physic laboratory in Switzerland to study the collision of very high-energy protons and charged atoms which allows the formation of helium nuclei and antihelium nuclei. At the end of the experiment, scientists were expecting both nuclei to be produced in equal numbers. Hence, they counted how many nuclei survived to determine how many antinuclei got destroyed against the carbon, steel, and other materials contained in the ALICE detector.
After the experiment, Königstorfer says that they used this “disappearance probability” in a computer simulation to determine antimatter’s journey towards Earth from distant space, like the center of our milky way galaxy. The Simulations of antinuclei being created by dark matter during the experiment showed that almost half of the particles would be detectable near Earth intact, even after traveling for thousands of trillions of kilometers from the center of the milky way galaxy.
“Our results show, for the first time on the basis of a direct absorption measurement, that antihelium-3 nuclei coming from as far as the center of our galaxy can reach near-Earth locations,” ALICE physics coordinator Andrea Dainese, stated during a press release.
Despite our ability to create this form of antimatter using particle accelerators such as the LHC, scientists have discovered that there are no natural sources of antimatter nuclei on our home planet Earth. But scientists have also discovered that these antimatter particles can be created naturally in a distanced part of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Researchers are suggesting that these anti-particles could be created in two possible origins. For the first origin, scientists suggest that the source of antimatter may be created due to the interaction between high-energy cosmic radiation with atoms in the interstellar medium. Note that the interstellar medium is the space that exists between stars outside the solar system.
For the second source of antimatter, scientists are suggesting that antinuclei could be created from the destruction of dark matter particles which occupy most of the galaxy. However, scientists are yet to improve their knowledge about dark matter. But they are quite sure that dark matter does not have particles such as protons and neutrons that are found in regular matter which create stars, planets, and everything on earth.
Researchers thought that dark matter contains a wide range of particles with WIMPs (weakly interacting massive particles) and MACHOs (massive compact halo objects). Scientists assume that if the destruction of dark matter particles could create antimatter, then antimatter could help them understand more about dark matter that made up most of the universe.
Humans are super interested in learning more about dark matter. Hence, our interest led to the development of some unique space missions like the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) aboard the International Space Station. The idea behind AMS is to explore the universe in search of light antimatter nuclei that will reveal the existence of dark matter. Scientists conducted this experiment to determine the amount of light antimatter that can pass across the Milky Way Galaxy and make it to their near-Earth locations, popularly refers to as antiparticle “flux.”
From the experiment, scientists concluded two mechanisms of antinuclei production. One model suggests that antimatter is created from cosmic ray collisions with the interstellar medium. However, the other model assumes that antimatter came into existence in the form of dark matter known as weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs).
The team finalized their experiments based on these models. The dark matter model transparency reveals that about 50% of the antihelium-3 nuclei will reach near earth location traveling through the milky way. While the cosmic ray collision model reveals that about 25% to 90% of the antimatter could reach near earth location depending on the amount of energy created by the antinuclei.
From these values, scientists concluded that the antihelium-3 nuclei could travel for long distances up to several kiloparsecs without getting destroyed by real matter. Each of these kiloparsecs is equivalent to about 3,300 lightyears.
“This experiment says that if any astrophysical object for any reason produces antihelium, we can detect it near Earth with standard detectors. And the signal-to-noise ratio will be very high for dark matter,” says Tim Linden at Stockholm University in Sweden.
Frequently Asked Question
Is Antimatter Real?
The existence of antimatter may sound like science fiction to many. However, the fact remains that antimatter is real. It was created during the big bang billions of years ago. But it has remained one of the rarest particles to find in the universe. Scientists are still wondering why it is difficult to spot antimatter naturally created in the Cosmos. However, further experiments will unlock the mysteries of antimatter to humans in the future.
Who discovered antimatter?
The paper published by Paul Dirac gave birth to the modern theory of antimatter in 1928. However, in 1936, Carl David Anderson at the age of 31 discovered antimatter while observing the positrons in a cloud chamber. This discovery made Anderson become the second youngest Nobel laureate and also popular across the world. Over the years, scientists have continued to advance the experiments they conduct on antimatter to improve our knowledge about the existence of these particles.
Is antimatter dangerous?
Antimatter matter is significantly dangerous as it possesses highly explosive particles. Scientists suggest that antimatter-to-matter annihilations possess the chance of releasing a massive amount of energy. Further studies enabled scientists to suggest that a gram of antimatter could create an explosion that is about the size of a nuclear bomb.
What is antimatter made of?
Antimatter substance is made up of subatomic particles with electric charge, mass, and magnetic moment of protons, electrons, and neutrons of regular matter with electric charge and magnetic moment in opposite signs of each other.
Learning more about the existence of antinuclei in the Cosmos is one of the primary goals of our scientists. Scientists are working immensely to conduct more experiments that will improve their knowledge of antimatter creation and other mysteries of the Universe. What do you think about this discovery?