An international team of physicists working at the Antiproton Decelerator (AD) facility at CERN has announced the first controlled production of large numbers of antihydrogen atoms at low energies. After mixing cold clouds of trapped positrons and antiprotons - the antiparticles of the familiar electron and proton - under closely monitored conditions, the ATHENA collaboration has identified antihydrogen atoms, formed when positrons bind together with antiprotons. The results are published online today by the journal Nature.
Says Professor Luciano Maiani, Director General of CERN, "The controlled production of antihydrogen observed in ATHENA is a great technological and scientific event. Even more so because ATHENA has produced antihydrogen in unexpectedly abundant quantities. I’d like also to recognise the contribution of the ATRAP experiment at CERN, which has pioneered the technology of trapping cold antiprotons and positrons, an essential step towards the present discovery."
The ATHENA experiment, which is run by a collaboration of 39 scientists from 9 different institutions worldwide, saw its first clear signals for antihydrogen in August - appropriately, the 100th anniversary of the birth of theorist Paul Dirac who predicted the existence of antimatter in the late 1920s. Says ATHENA spokesman, Rolf Landua,"The experiment is a major milestone in antimatter science and an important first step on the road to high precision comparisons of hydrogen and antihydrogen. Such measurements will provide information vital to our understanding of the Universe and in particular why nature has a preference for matter over antimatter."
Christine Sutton | alfa
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