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Dec 22, 2016 03:49 AM EST

Latest CERN Research Sheds New Light On Antimatter Physics

CERN continues research on antimatter
CERN continues research on antimatter
(Photo : Johannes Simon/Getty Images)

A new research by CERN scientists has revealed a new way to probe antimatter. This is a breakthrough in the study of this particular facet of physics.

NPR reported that researchers were able to zap antimatter atoms using a laser. Afterwards, they measured the light emitted by the anti-atoms. They compared the light from anti-atoms with the light emitted from regular atoms. This is part of efforts to discover why the antimatter lost to regular matter in the early universe.

"This represents a historic point in the decades-long efforts to create antimatter and compare its properties to those of matter," Alan Kostelecky, a theoretical physicist at Indiana University, said. The research group at CERN, named ALPHA, was founded by Jeffrey Hangst, a physicist at Aarhus University. The group is devoted to studying antimatter.

What makes antimatter particularly difficult to study is that it is the complete opposite of matter. Moreover, when the two atoms come into contact with each other, they both disappear in a flash of light.

"What you hear about in science fiction - that antimatter gets annihilated by normal matter - is 100 percent true," Hangst said, "and is the greatest challenge in my everyday life."

Hangst and his team have spent years in the quest to create the antimatter version of simple hydrogen atoms. One challenge they had to face was in containing anti-atoms without it touching the walls of its container.

They were able to trap the hydrogen anti-atoms in a vacuum using strong magnetic fields. This time, they were able to use a special laser to probe this antimatter. Their findings were published in the Nature journal. The discovered that hydrogen anti-atoms respond to the laser in a similar fashion as regular hydrogen atoms.

According to the New York Times, Hangst also revealed that they are working on new experiments with antimatter. One of the experiments is to see how gravity affects antihydrogen. The plan is to create a vertical machine and drop the anti-atom.

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