An successful antimatter experiment at CERN resulted in a beam of anti-hydrogen that scientists have successfully created and trapped. Antimatter consists of subatomic particles that have the same mass as ordinary matter, but an opposite charge. CERN has previously generated antimatter, but never in a way that allowed careful study. This new anti-hydrogen beam, however, could change everything, including what we know about particle physics, because scientists have been able to successfully trap it.
CERN created the anti-hydrogen beam with an Antiproton Decelerator, which allowed them to mix antielectrons with antiprotons. They worked with hydrogen because it is the simplest element, consisting of just one proton and one electron. But producing the anti-hydrogen wasn’t enough. To study the anti-hydrogen, the scientists at CERN also needed to hold onto it for a little bit. Because both hydrogen and anti-hydrogen react to magnetic fields, CERN created a super strong magnetic field to capture the anti-hydrogen. This, unfortunately, comes with a side effect: the magnetic field makes the anti-hydrogen difficult to study with a spectroscope. To counter that, CERN figured out how to pull the antiatoms out of the magnetic field and trap them into a beam, which allows for further study of the antiatoms without magnetic interference.
Maybe this experiment will finally solve at least part of the mystery of antimatter and why it’s so prevalent, yet elusive, in our universe. The experiment will continue into the summer, when CERN hopes to improve their system of trapping the atoms, hoping to gain a sneek peek into what makes the universe tick. This also means we could be one step closer to fueling Star Trek’s warp drive.