A new antimatter breakthrough has scientists thinking they can help explain one of the Big Bang’s most illuminating mysteries.
Scientists at Swansea University in the U.K. hope to be one step closer to answering the question of why matter exists and solving one of the mysteries of the Big Bang and the birth of the Universe.
“To get some sense of the importance of this discovery, we need to understand that it has been 30 years in the making and represents the collaborative work of hundreds of researchers over the years,” Prof. Mike Charlton said in a statement.
“Enquiries into this area of physics started in the 1980’s and this landmark achievement has now opened the door to precision studies of atomic antimatter, which will hopefully bring us closer to answering the question of why matter exists to help solve the mystery as to how the Universe came about.”
The science team, working with an international collaborative team at CERN, was able to replace the proton nucleus of the ordinary atom by an antiproton and the electron substitute is the positron.
They then shined a laser light at a well-defined frequency onto anti-hydrogen atoms held in a trap.
The team observed some of the atoms get excited to an upper level and in doing so leave the trap
Charlton explained the breakthrough.
“The existence of antimatter is well established in physics and it is buried deep in the heart of some of the most successful theories ever developed,” he said. “But we have yet to answer a central question of why didn’t matter and antimatter, which it is believed were created in equal amounts when the Big Bang started the Universe, mutually self-annihilate?
“We also have yet to address why there is any matter left in the Universe at all. This conundrum is one of the central open questions in fundamental science and one way to search for the answer is to bring the power of precision atomic physics to bear upon antimatter.”
It was previously established that any excited atom will reach its lowest state by emitting photons and the spectrum of light emitted from them will represent a kind of atomic fingerprint and it is a unique identifier.
The properties of hydrogen, which is the simplest and most abundant atom in the Universe, are known with high accuracy, particularly the 1S-2S transition has been determined with a precision close to one part in a hundred trillion.
The study was published in Nature.