jeudi 23 août 2018
ALPHA experiment takes antimatter to a new level
CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research logo.
August 23, 2018
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, the ALPHA collaboration reports that it has literally taken antimatter to a new level. The researchers have observed the Lyman-alpha electronic transition in the antihydrogen atom, the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen, for the first time. The finding comes hot on the heels of recent measurements by the collaboration of another electronic transition, and demonstrates that ALPHA is quickly and steadily paving the way for precision experiments that could uncover as yet unseen differences between the behaviour of matter and antimatter.
Image above: Jeffrey Hangst, spokesperson for the ALPHA experiment, next to the experiment. (Image: Maximilien Brice, Julien Ordan/CERN).
The Lyman-alpha (or 1S-2P) transition is one of several in the Lyman series of electronic transitions that were discovered in atomic hydrogen just over a century ago by physicist Theodore Lyman. The transition occurs when an electron jumps from the lowest-energy (1S) level to a higher-energy (2P) level and then falls back to the 1S level by emitting a photon at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometres.
It is a special transition. In astronomy, it allows researchers to probe the state of the medium that lies between galaxies and test models of the cosmos. In antimatter studies, it could enable precision measurements of how antihydrogen responds to light and gravity. Finding any slight difference between the behaviour of antimatter and matter would rock the foundations of the Standard Model of particle physics and perhaps cast light on why the universe is made up almost entirely of matter, even though equal amounts of antimatter should have been produced in the Big Bang.
The ALPHA team makes antihydrogen atoms by taking antiprotons from CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator (AD) and binding them with positrons from a sodium-22 source. It then confines the resulting antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap, which prevents them from coming into contact with matter and annihilating. Laser light is then shone onto the trapped atoms to measure their spectral response. The measurement involves using a range of laser frequencies and counting the number of atoms that drop out of the trap as a result of interactions between the laser and the trapped atoms.
The ALPHA collaboration has previously employed this technique to measure the so-called 1S-2S transition. Using the same approach and a series of laser wavelengths around 121.6 nanometres, ALPHA has now detected the Lyman-alpha transition in antihydrogen and measured its frequency with a precision of a few parts in a hundred million, obtaining good agreement with the equivalent transition in hydrogen.
This precision is not as high as that achieved in hydrogen, but the finding represents a pivotal technological step towards using the Lyman-alpha transition to chill large samples of antihydrogen using a technique known as laser cooling. Such samples would allow researchers to bring the precision of this and other measurements of antihydrogen to a level at which any differences between the behaviour of antihydrogen and hydrogen might emerge.
“We are really excited about this result,” says Jeffrey Hangst, spokesperson for the ALPHA experiment. “The Lyman-alpha transition is notoriously difficult to probe – even in ‘normal’ hydrogen. But by exploiting our ability to trap and hold large numbers of antihydrogen atoms for several hours, and using a pulsed source of Lyman-alpha laser light, we were able to observe this transition. Next up is laser cooling, which will be a game-changer for precision spectroscopy and gravitational measurements.”
CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, is one of the world’s largest and most respected centres for scientific research. Its business is fundamental physics, finding out what the Universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of Nature.
The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
Founded in 1954, the CERN Laboratory sits astride the Franco–Swiss border near Geneva. It was one of Europe’s first joint ventures and now has 22 Member States.
Journal Nature: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0435-1
Standard Model of particle physics: https://home.cern/about/physics/standard-model
CERN’s Antiproton Decelerator (AD): https://home.cern/about/accelerators/antiproton-decelerator
For more information about European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), Visit: https://home.cern/
Image (mentioned), Text, Credits: CERN/Ana Lopes.
Best regards, Orbiter.ch
Publié par Orbiter.ch à 13:26