What is antimatter?

antimatter

Our world is full of mysteries. From the depths of the ocean to the heights of the sky, we know about 4 percent in total. But for now, we’ll only focus on what we know about outer space, more specifically what we don’t know.

Everything is made of matter, and the opposite of matter is antimatter. More specifically, the sub-atomic particles of antimatter have properties that are polar opposite to normal matter. Antimatter was after the big bang, just when normal matter was made. As we all know, normal atoms have protons and electrons which have positive and negative charge respectively. But for matter’s more mysterious counterpart, things are sort of different. Antimatter has antielectrons called positrons that behave like electrons but have a positive charge. And antiprotons that behave like protons but have a negative charge. Basically, antimatter is normal matter’s cousin from topsy turvy town.

We know these particles exist because scientists have studied them in The Large Hadron Collider where they generated these particles. But where did antimatter come from? We know it’s origins, the rest? Not so much. In the first moments after the big bang, only energy existed but as the universe cooled and expanded, matter and antimatter came into being like the birth of twins. Somehow normal matter came to dominate this universe and that’s what has been puzzling scientists everywhere.

One theory suggests that there was more of normal matter so even after they mutually annihilated each other, there was plenty of normal matter left to form the world we know today.

If natter annihilated antimatter, how did scientists get a chance to study it? Well, charged antimatter particles such as positrons and antiprotons can be held in devices called Penning traps. The particles keep spilling around as he magnetic and electric field stop them from colliding with the walls of the trap. So it’s just a box with floating particles. Although, this doesn’t work for neutral particles such antihydrogen because they’re not changers and cannot be influenced by electric field. So instead they’re kept in Loffe traps, which is uses a magnetic field that keeps getting larger so that the particle is stuck in the area with the weakest magnetic field.

The mutual annihilation process produces a lot of energy and many scientists think it would be a good way to fuel a rocket. But it’s not simple as this quite literally rocket science. Besides, it takes about a whopping 100 billion to produce a milligram of antimatter. Lastly, creating antimatter takes more energy than the energy it releases. This idea sounds like it’s right out of a Sci-Fi movie. When this theory comes alive, we may be looking at the possibility of interstellar travelling.

Antimatter does exist in our universe but observing it and even finding an antimatter particle is like looking for a grain of salt in a pile of sugar. Even though the possibility is tiny, there have been other speculations of antimatter. Small amount of antimatter falls on the earth in the form of cosmic rays and energetic particles. Scientists have also seen evidence of antimatter production above thunderstorms.

The development and study of antimatter is painfully slow because it’s so interesting but so hard to observe. We can only hope that we stay alive until further discoveries because it could take centuries.

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