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Search for antimatter

  1. Dec 19, 2004 #1
    Scientific Balloon Circles South Pole on Search for Antimatter

    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.

    For more information and images from Antarctica:
    http://bess-gsfc.gsfc.nasa.gov

    To monitor the balloon's track and see near
    real-time GPS position data, visit :
    http://tower.nsbf.nasa.gov/ice0405.htm
     
  2. jcsd
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