Trying to understand why matter triumphed over antimatter, researchers announced on Wednesday “the most accurate direct measurement ever done on antimatter”, information that could help to understand the mystery of its disappearance.
In the beginning, there were exact amounts of matter and antimatter
The Big Bang produced as much matter as antimatter but antimatter then disappeared almost completely, without anyone knowing why.
According to a study published in the British journal Nature, the physicists of the Alpha team, a laboratory of the European Nuclear Research Center (CERN) located in Switzerland, have come up a step closer to solving this mystery.
For each particle of matter, there should be another one of antimatter with the same properties but with an opposite electric charge.
Matter and antimatter cannot coexist
When they come into direct contact, they annihilate each other. Shortly after the Big Bang, they would have self-destructed each other but a small difference between the two allowed the mater to prevail, giving birth to everything that exists in the visible Universe.
There has been a small difference that scientists have been trying to figure out for decades. But antimatter is difficult to produce and trap, so its properties are difficult to measure.
The Alpha team from the CERN has managed to produce anti-hydrogen atoms
Once they’ve produced anti-hydrogen, in 2016, the scientists observed for the first time ever the behavior of an antimatter atom, the anti-hydrogen, under ultraviolet rays.
Since then, they have studied the reaction of about 15,000 of these atoms, establishing spectroscopic measurements on antimatter, of a never before achieved accuracy. Data they compared to those of hydrogen, then.
“So far, they are alike,” says Jeffrey Hangst of the CERN Alpha team. Having been able to measure with such precision the properties of antimatter “opens an entirely new era” with perhaps the key to the discovery of the famous difference, according to the researchers.