Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
. 24/7 Space News .

Subscribe to our free daily newsletters

Antimatter Over Antarctica?

If antimatter collides with matter, annihilation energy is released. This 'pure energy' doesn't leave ash like a normal catastrophic explosion, such as supernova. The massive star Eta Carinae. This star went through a giant explosive outburst about 150 years ago, suddenly making it one of the brightest stars in the southern sky. Credit: N. Smith (U. Colorado), J. Morse (Arizona State U.), and NASA.
Greenbelt MD (SPX) Jan 04, 2005
An international team of scientists has launched a high-altitude, balloon-borne instrument from Antarctica to search for antimatter, which is among the rarest and most elusive types of particles in the Universe.

The team seeks to understand the origin of cosmic antimatter and to find evidence for the existence of Hawking radiation from "evaporating" black holes, a theory proposed by Prof. Stephen Hawking of Cambridge University in England.

The instrument, called BESS-Polar, launched successfully on December 13 from McMurdo Station, Antarctica, beneath a 40-million-cubic-foot scientific balloon, as big as a football field.

To maximize the possibility of finding the antimatter predicted by Hawking, the team is hoping for at least a 10-day flight, or once around the South Pole, in a near-space environment above 99% of the atmosphere. The instrument is now circling the Pole at an average altitude of 24 miles (39 kilometers).

"Our earlier, shorter flights from northern Canada have provided hints of the signature of Hawking radiation," said Principal Investigator Prof. Akira Yamamoto of Japan's High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK).

"With a longer flight and a greater 'harvest' of antiprotons, we might be able to show that Prof. Hawking is right."

BESS-Polar is collaboration among scientists at KEK, the University of Tokyo, Kobe University, and the Institute of Space and Astronautical Science of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, along with NASA and the University of Maryland, College Park. BESS stands for Balloon-borne Experiment with a Superconducting Spectrometer.

Antimatter is made up of particles with equal but opposite characteristics of the particles of matter we interact with everyday. For example, protons have a positive charge, but antiprotons have a negative charge.

Antiprotons created in space bombard the Earth in the form of cosmic rays, which are elementary particles traveling at near light speed. When matter and antimatter collide, they annihilate, creating pure energy and no "ash".

The most basic form of the Big Bang theory predicts that equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created. Somehow, matter dominated antimatter in the initial moments following the Big Bang.

One of the BESS-Polar project's goals is to see if there is any evidence of antimatter domains left over from the Big Bang. The apparent matter-antimatter asymmetry is a fundamental puzzle in elementary particle physics and also in astronomy.

The study of lower-energy antiproton particles is particularly exciting, Yamamoto said, because they might have been created by "evaporating" black holes, a process called Hawking radiation not yet seen in nature. This would be from primordial, microscopic black holes created just after the Big Bang. Finding antiproton particles in an abundance and energy range predicted by theory would serve as compelling evidence.

"The northern and southern polar regions are the best places to collect low-energy antiprotons," said U.S. Principal Investigator Dr. John Mitchell of NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, at McMurdo Station for the flight.

"The Earth's magnetic field protects us from antiprotons and other cosmic-ray particles from space. The magnetic field funnels charged particles toward the Earth's poles, so the concentration of lower-energy cosmic rays entering into the Earth's atmosphere there is greater."

This is the first flight for BESS-Polar. Scientists have flown an earlier version called BESS for daylong flights in northern Canada once a year nearly every year from 1993 to 2002. That instrument collected millions of cosmic rays and a few thousand low-energy antiprotons. But more are needed for better analysis.

"We journeyed to the bottom of the world so that we could get a nice, long flight," said Project Manager Prof. Tetsuya Yoshida of KEK. "Longer flights mean better statistics."

Constant daylight in Antarctica means no day-to-night temperature fluctuations on the balloon craft, which helps the balloon stay at a constant altitude for longer.

The BESS-Polar team hopes to collect enough antiprotons to characterize their absolute intensity (number per square meter per second per solid angle) among other the cosmic rays in terms of energy.

Related Links
Search SpaceDaily
Subscribe To SpaceDaily Express

Aging Universe May Still Be Spawning Massive Galaxies
Pasadena CA (SPX) Dec 22, 2004
NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer has spotted what appear to be massive "baby" galaxies in our corner of the universe. Previously, astronomers thought the universe's birth rate had dramatically declined and only small galaxies were forming.

Thanks for being here;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.

SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5 Billed Monthly

paypal only

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2016 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement All images and articles appearing on Space Media Network have been edited or digitally altered in some way. Any requests to remove copyright material will be acted upon in a timely and appropriate manner. Any attempt to extort money from Space Media Network will be ignored and reported to Australian Law Enforcement Agencies as a potential case of financial fraud involving the use of a telephonic carriage device or postal service.