Anti-matter, the ultimate outsider in a universe of matte. Using the anti-matter hunting satellite PAMELA – Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics – scientist were able to locate a pool of anti-matter trapped within the Earth magnetic fields. Anti-matter is a mysterious type of matter, not made for this world, when it rarely does appear its only very briefly, usually leaving with a bang. While PAMELA has found a constantly replenishing source of anti-matter it’s too soon to start building the USS Enterprise just yet. The study of the fundamentals of our universe becomes a lot easier when you have actual examples to study.
Anti-matter and many other particles are created in the upper atmosphere by high energy cosmic radiation interacting with the upper atmosphere. The radiation tares the atoms in the upper atmosphere to pieces reducing them to smaller sub atomic particles, also referred to as daughter particles. The outcome of these reactions is very similar to what is being done at the Large Hadron Collider – LHC -, or any particle accelerator for that matter. The subject particle is accelerated to near the speed of light and slammed into a wall to see what its made of, a similar thing is happening in the upper atmosphere except the particles are standing still and the wall, in this case cosmic radiation, is slamming into the particles at near the speed of light. The anti-protons that the scientist where looking for are the results of these reactions of the nuclear kind. Most of the anti-protons created are annihilated instantly upon contact with matter but a few are contained within the magnet layers of the Earths magnet field.
The term anti-matter is actually a broad term, PAMELA was specially hunting for anti-protons, sometimes referred to as negatron’s. Scientists very cleverly focused their attentions on data gathered in a region of the Earths magnetic fields known for high energy particles and radiation, a place where nuclear reactions occur constantly, the South Atlantic Anomaly – SAA -. The SAA is a section of the Van Allen radiation belt closest to the surface of the Earth, above the South Atlantic. An area so heavily packed with high energy particles and radiation that Hubble has to be switched of when passing through. PAMELA was constantly sent through the SAA, she danced with the devil and came back with the goods. Scientists did indeed find negatron’s in the SAA, 28 of them to be precise. Not a huge amount by any stretch but it is constantly being generated and its free. Scientists can produce negatron’s in the lab, LHC does all the time, but the costs are enormous and they can only be contained for seconds.
Research satellite PAMELA, a collaboration between Italy, Russia, Germany and Sweden. She was launched into orbit aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket on the 15th of June 2006, set to fly in an elliptical orbit at an altitude of between 350 and 610 Km, depending on here mood and research target of course. Designed to investigate cosmic radiation, improve our understanding of dark-matter and the evolution of matter PAM is digging into the most fundamental issues, why is matter and anti-matter the way it is ? – matter anti-matter asymmetry –
Anti-matter is touted as the ultimate fuel for long haul space travel. By its very nature an anti-matter explosion consumes 100% of the matter / anti-matter in the reaction. All of the matter is converted to energy, giving 100% efficiency. 1000 times more efficient than Nuclear fission reactions, 10 million times more efficient than chemical reactions.
In theory every kind of matter, particle or energy has its own nemesis or evil equivalent in the anti-verse. Anti-protons and positrons – anti electrons – can form into anti-hydrogen. The structure of the anti-verse is theoretically the same, with the only elemental difference being the direction of the spin of electrons around particles. Is it the world of anti-hero’s, the home of evil Superman, Bizzaro ?
There are still many challenges before we can look forward to launching the USS Enterprise. Containing it will be tricky but building an engine that can contain the explosion will be an unimaginable challenge. Here at Highpants we love a challenge and this is one of the biggies, deep space here we come, eventually. In the more short-term what has been discovered is a repository of the most rare of particles, a form of matter that will help us understand what makes this world tick. Thanks again to our eye’s in the skies PAMELA.