Antimatter belt discovered around Earth

This has been covered widely today, here is a sampling of stories and reference:

Artist's conception of magnetosphere

The antiprotons lie sandwiched between the inner and outer Van Allen belts (in red) around the Earth

From the BBC:
Antimatter belt around Earth discovered by Pamela craft

A thin band of antimatter particles called antiprotons enveloping the Earth has been spotted for the first time.

The find, described in Astrophysical Journal Letters, confirms theoretical work that predicted the Earth’s magnetic field could trap antimatter.

The team says a small number of antiprotons lie between the Van Allen belts of trapped “normal” matter.

The researchers say there may be enough to implement a scheme using antimatter to fuel future spacecraft.

The antiprotons were spotted by the Pamela satellite (an acronym for Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) – launched in 2006 to study the nature of high-energy particles from the Sun and from beyond our Solar System – so-called cosmic rays.

These cosmic ray particles can slam into molecules that make up the Earth’s atmosphere, creating showers of particles.

Many of the cosmic ray particles or these “daughter” particles they create are caught in the Van Allen belts, doughnut-shaped regions where the Earth’s magnetic field traps them.

Among Pamela’s goals was to specifically look for small numbers of antimatter particles among the far more abundant normal matter particles such as protons and the nuclei of helium atoms.

‘Abundant source’

The new analysis, described in an online preprint, shows that when Pamela passes through a region called the South Atlantic Anomaly, it sees thousands of times more antiprotons than are expected to come from normal particle decays, or from elsewhere in the cosmos.

Read more here

From CERN:

PAMELA pins down cosmic antiproton flux

The satellite experiment Payload for Antimatter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics (PAMELA) has made a new measurement of the antiproton-to-proton flux ratio in cosmic rays with energies up to 100 GeV. The results, which represent a great improvement in statistics compared with data published previously, provide significant constraints on exotic sources of cosmic antimatter.

The PAMELA experiment has been in low Earth-orbit on the Resurs-DK1 satellite since its launch in June 2006 (CERN Courier September 2006 p8). During 500 days of data collection it has identified 1000 antiprotons with energies in the range 1–100 GeV, including 100 antiprotons with an energy above 20 GeV. This is a larger data sample at higher energies than any other experiment has obtained.

Cosmic antiprotons can be made in particle (mainly proton) collisions with interstellar gas but they could also have more exotic origins, for example, in the annihilation of dark-matter particles. Finding out more about the actual production mechanisms requires detailed studies of the antiproton energy spectrum over a wide energy range, which in turn depend on data with good statistics, as PAMELA now provides.

Analysis of the data from PAMELA show that the antiproton-to-proton flux ratio rises smoothly to about 10 GeV, before tending to level off. The results match well with theoretical calculations that assume only secondary production of antiprotons by cosmic rays propagating through the galaxy. This places limits on contributions from other, more exotic sources

From http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.4882

The discovery of geomagnetically trapped cosmic ray antiprotons

O. Adriani, G. C. Barbarino, G. A. Bazilevskaya, R. Bellotti, M. Boezio, E. A. Bogomolov, M. Bongi, V. Bonvicini, S. Borisov, S. Bottai, A. Bruno, F. Cafagna, D. Campana, R. Carbone, P. Carlson, M. Casolino, G. Castellini, L. Consiglio, M. P. De Pascale, C. De Santis, N. De Simone, V. Di Felice, A. M. Galper, W. Gillard, L. Grishantseva, G. Jerse, A. V. Karelin, M. D. Kheymits, S. V. Koldashov, S. Y. Krutkov, A. N. Kvashnin, A. Leonov, V. Malakhov, L. Marcelli, A. G. Mayorov, W. Menn, V. V. Mikhailov, E. Mocchiutti, A. Monaco, N. Mori, N. Nikonov, G. Osteria, F. Palma, P. Papini, M. Pearce, P. Picozza, C. Pizzolotto, M. Ricci, S. B. Ricciarini, L. Rossetto, R. Sarkar, M. Simon, R. Sparvoli, P. Spillantini, Y. I. Stozhkov, A. Vacchi, E. Vannuccini, G. Vasilyev, S. A. Voronov, Y. T. Yurkin, et al. (4 additional authors not shown)
(Submitted on 25 Jul 2011)

The existence of a significant flux of antiprotons confined to Earth’s magnetosphere has been considered in several theoretical works. These antiparticles are produced in nuclear interactions of energetic cosmic rays with the terrestrial atmosphere and accumulate in the geomagnetic field at altitudes of several hundred kilometers. A contribution from the decay of albedo antineutrons has been hypothesized in analogy to proton production by neutron decay, which constitutes the main source of trapped protons at energies above some tens of MeV. This Letter reports the discovery of an antiproton radiation belt around the Earth. The trapped antiproton energy spectrum in the South Atlantic Anomaly (SAA) region has been measured by the PAMELA experiment for the kinetic energy range 60–750 MeV. A measurement of the atmospheric sub-cutoff antiproton spectrum outside the radiation belts is also reported. PAMELA data show that the magnetospheric antiproton flux in the SAA exceeds the cosmic-ray antiproton flux by three orders of magnitude at the present solar minimum, and exceeds the sub-cutoff antiproton flux outside radiation belts by four orders of magnitude, constituting the most abundant source of antiprotons near the Earth.

About these ads

50 thoughts on “Antimatter belt discovered around Earth

  1. this is the part that just makes me sigh:

    “The researchers say there may be enough to implement a scheme using antimatter to fuel future spacecraft.”

    scheme/skēm/
    Noun: A large-scale systematic plan or arrangement for attaining some particular object or putting a particular idea into effect.
    Verb: Make plans, esp. in a devious way or with intent to do something illegal or wrong.

    I am so tired of hearing the word “scheme” lately, as if it was a good thing. Fascinating though the existance of antimatter particles around the earth may be, I feel its unbecoming to claim this is a fuel source when theres no way to collect, store, manipulate, or otherwise control these particles. Speaking for myself, I feel this sort of far out claim made to the public just goes to show how poorly scientists are conducting themselves today.

  2. George Tetley says:
    August 9, 2011 at 12:01 am

    At last, faster than light travel is possible.

    No it is not. And it never will be with our current level of knowledge, perhaps if we discover some super physics in the future. But at the moment just below lightspeed is the maximum speed for us, And it will take several decades to even launch a interstellar probe with speeds up to 20-30% of the lightspeed. Manned interstellar travel is even centuries away, And it is still a big uncertainty if we will ever make that interstellar jump.

  3. Just a Way Station. Out in the back of no where.
    Can we charge carbon taxes?
    (To other carbon based life forms)
    Sarc :-{

  4. What’s really amazing to me is that apparently these antimatter particles can be contained – or at least constrained with such a weak magnetic force, like what we have from the Earth.

  5. If I recall correctly, watching a well known factual science show years ago, the Chief Engineer was always pointing out that “I canneee give ya any more thrust Capp’n, the matter-antimatter core just canneee take it!” Or words to that effect!!!! He was of course always able to re-route something or other through the Jeffries Tube or whatever to save the day! On another well known British one, (no really) which really was a science programme, “was” being the opertative word here, Horizon showed that the speed of light was almost unobtainable as the mass increased disproportionately as they approached every closer to the speed of light, making it all rather, well, err…………difficult!

  6. PS Forgot to say, aren’t we all supposed to be twiddling out thumbs & sitting on our brains until 2063 or whenever, when a passing Vulcan star ship passes by???? :-))

  7. Rhoda, antimatter is just like matter. Thing is, it’s quite explosive when it encounters normal matter ;).

  8. I’m still waiting for someone to:

    Pay the bills down here.

    Allow people to get the energy we need now to warm the house, with shale fracking and other 60 year old technologies.

    After we get some of these boring things done, then we can tap into antimatter clouds for space travel.

  9. @George Tetley says:
    August 9, 2011 at 12:01 am

    At last, faster than light travel is possible.

    Old news. FTL has been around for some time. Invented by D. Adams. ;)

    “The Infinite Improbability Drive is a faster-than-light drive. The most prominent usage of the drive is in the starship Heart of Gold. It is based on a particular perception of quantum theory: a subatomic particle is most likely to be in a particular place, such as near the nucleus of an atom, but there is also a small probability of it being found very far from its point of origin (for example close to a distant star). Thus, a body could travel from place to place without passing through the intervening space (or hyperspace, for that matter), if you had sufficient control of probability. According to the Guide, in this way the drive “passes through every conceivable point in every conceivable universe almost simultaneously,” meaning the traveler is “never sure where they’ll end up or even what species they’ll be when they get there,” therefore it’s important to dress accordingly.”

  10. Now we have an idea what happened to those Ancient Space Aliens the so-called History Channel talks about. While hopping into and out of the earth’s atmosphere, they might have gotten caught in an anti-matter proton storm.

    It could happen! Where is George Noory when you need him?

  11. Cool. I knew those dilithium crystals I’ve been saving on a dusty shelf in my garage would be worth something some day.

  12. No sweat. We can just use a magnetic bottle similar to the ones we use to contain our fusion reactors … Oh, wait…

  13. Well, now we have an answer to the question “How many astrophysicists does it take to count the anti-protons?”

  14. .. and before this discovery we knew all about anti-matter belts … the science was settled (was in, a consensus existed … pick your poison).

  15. The nuclear bomb came about fairly rapidly. We were light years ahead of all others and had severely limited the ability of others getting such technology while we were cooking up the bomb. Back then, we had successful security up to the explosion. These days, any such large scale research project designed to make fuel out of antimatter has no chance of remaining secret, even for a nanosecond. No chance. And because we therefor cannot be the sole proprietor of such technology, even for a very limited amount of time, there is no incentive to make it happen.

    The world’s citizenry are not keen on governmental secrets anymore.

  16. Robert says:
    August 9, 2011 at 12:21 am

    “And it is still a big uncertainty if we will ever make that interstellar jump.”

    It’s been a long time since mankind has ventured past about 2% of the distance to the Moon.

    Since we have now taken ourselves out of the running and decided to cripple ourselves with bloated bureaucratic financial endeavors…. it sure as hell isn’t going to be the US. We will be lucky if we can last past about 5 years as an actual country.

    The Roman empire was also “Too big to fail.”

  17. Typical of humans, as soon as we saw a new source of energy we want to harvest it… even without knowing anything about how it is created or renewed, what its role is and most importantly, what would be the impact of removing it?

  18. Re: Pamela Gray on nuclear bomb history. Incorrect. The Manhattan Project was riddled with Soviet spies. Stalin was NOT surprised when Truman told him about the White Sands test. The Soviets were behind us but were hot on the trail of their own bomb, and indeed exploded their first just a few years after ours, based in large part on info gleaned from their deep cover spies in Los Alamos and elsewhere. Considering how many thousands of people worked on the American project, it is something of a miracle that it was kept secret from the public for so long.

  19. “No it is not. And it never will be with our current level of knowledge, perhaps if we discover some super physics in the future. But at the moment just below lightspeed is the maximum speed for us, And it will take several decades to even launch a interstellar probe with speeds up to 20-30% of the lightspeed. Manned interstellar travel is even centuries away, And it is still a big uncertainty if we will ever make that interstellar jump.” – Robert

    Buzzkill. )c:

  20. Mike, you said exactly what I said. I didn’t say anything close to “no one else knew about the project”. I said, “We were light years ahead of all others and had severely limited the ability of others getting such technology while we were cooking up the bomb.”

    Of course there were spies. That they didn’t explode their bomb till years after proves my point. If you want to debate what I said, at least debate an opposing view from what I said. The opposing view would contend that the Soviets were neck and neck with us and gained purloined secrets the minute they were conceived. You said they were not neck and neck with us and provided an example of their delayed work. Correct. I said we were ahead of all others. Correct.

    In debate points, I earned 1 mark (I could have earned more by using a better example than “light years ahead”), you earned 0. Your “incorrect” counter point was not point worthy as it was not a counter point at all. In debate, you earn points by countering the opposition, not by substantiating the opposition.

    I yearn for the day when debate was a required yearly class.

  21. Since the proton-anti-proton interaction entails mutual annililation, there can’t be much going on on a practical scale. At the same time, the mass and charge difference should show up in magnetic-electrical field separation with distance. So … are there field lines of anti-protons sliding out into the universe, avoiding electrons but attracting anti-electrons to make anti-hydrogen?

    Still sounds academically interesting but little of anything unless there is a concentrating force in or out of the solar system.

  22. Pamela Gray, I guess that depends on how you define “light years ahead.” The Soviet bomb was only 4 years behind ours.

  23. Pamela Gray, I guess that also depends on how you define “successful security.” Soviet spies were saving their scientists from all kinds of research dead-ends.

  24. Pamela Gray says (August 9, 2011 at 9:31 am): “Of course there were spies.”

    Pamela is obviously using a definition of “successful security” with which I’m unfamiliar. :-)

    You know, kind of like “successful stimulus program”, or “mission accomplished”, or “I did not have ‘sex’ with that woman”.

  25. If we do end up using it as an energy source, how much you want to bet that the alarmists will use this to claim again that man is responsible for some non-existent catastrophe? 100%

  26. Anti-matter propulsion won’t be practical until some form of political graft can be made from it.

  27. You state “et al. (4 additional authors not shown)”
    why did you do that? with sixty authors named.
    What is the justification for leaving out just four authors
    and replacing them with the ubiquitous “et al” by-line?

    Who are these other Four Authors, I think we need to know.

    REPLY: Elementary my dear Sherlock, that’s the way it is listed on the ARXIV website (had you bothered to follow the link http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.4882 ) 10 demerits for wasting my time responding to this. – Anthony

  28. Mark and two Cats says:
    August 8, 2011 at 11:27 pm

    Antimatter is like unclematter, just different. This is due to Relativity.

    And the Theory of Relativity states:

    When you’re with relatives, time slows down. If one were to gather enough relatives together in one place, time would actually stop. Some say this is not possible. Others say this has already happened, and the proof is Jersey Shore.

  29. At last, faster than light travel is possible. No it is not.

    In point of fact, a spaceship traveling at a constant 1 g acceleration, exactly the same as our gravitational force, could (if it didn’t hit something) reach the furthest observed point in the universe, some 14 billion light years distant, within the lifetime of humans aboard the space craft.

    According to relativity, If you want to land on a planet 14 billion light years away, then you would accelerate for about 35 years at 1 g, then decelerate for 35 years at 1 g, and if Einstein has it right you would be about 14 billion light years from earth.

    The problem is in returning, as that people on earth would have aged some 14+ billion years in the meanwhile. However, for the people aboard the ship the constant 1 g acceleration would feel exactly as though they were living on the surface of the earth.

    As such, space travel to any place in the observed universe is possible, given that you have a power source than can maintain 1 g acceleration/deceleration for 70 years.

  30. “The nuclear bomb came about fairly rapidly. We were light years ahead of all others”

    Adolf Hitler created the A-bomb. His policies created the incentive and drove the necessary physicists to leave Germany for Britain and the USA.

  31. @ferd berple

    It still is not faster than light, only up to light speed. And at relativistic speeds you are required to use more and more energy to maintain that 1-g acceleration.

  32. Now all we need is an Anti-Matter Hyper Drive, and er, some way of getting into the belt to collect the fuel. So, see you on Bernard’s Star next year.

  33. “”””” Sherlock Holmes says:

    August 9, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    You state “et al. (4 additional authors not shown)”
    why did you do that? with sixty authors named.
    What is the justification for leaving out just four authors
    and replacing them with the ubiquitous “et al” by-line?

    Who are these other Four Authors, I think we need to know. “””””

    I think it is more important to ask why there are 60 or even 64 authors.

    I’d like to see a breakdown; paragraph by paragraph, listing who wrote what.

    I never read papers that claim more than three authors.

    One person alone wrote “Der Ring des Nibelungen”; every last word of it, every single musical note of it, devised the stage, and staging of it; even invented the necessary musical instruments to play those notes; like the 137 monotonous bars of a bottom e-flat played on a string bass, that starts the whole shebang. There is no bottom e-flat on a regular string bass.

    So it doesn’t take 60 or 64 authors to write some science paper

  34. @George E. Smith

    That was a fine comment.

    When I first listened to the intro to the Ring of the Nibelung -thanks to a Wagner fan, of course-, I was absolutely captivated by it and wondered how long it could go on.

    That night I started listening to the entire cycle while following the story with the libretto. It took me two nights. It ain’t over until the fat lady sings, indeed.

    As for 60-64 scientists authoring a paper, it seems to me, the names were meant to represent the authorship of the research, not so much the paper itself. Big science is a highly collaborative enterprise nowadays.

    There is also safety in numbers. A few scientists can more easily be dismissed as cranks than a whole bunch of them.

  35. Gary Hladik says:

    You know, kind of like “successful stimulus program”, or “mission accomplished”, or “I did not have ‘sex’ with that woman”.

    Perhaps like “The operation was successful, but the patient died”.

  36. Antimatter has the potential to be a very powerful energy source, producing 100 to 1000 times more energy per mass than fusion. The belt is much closer than the moon so we can already get there. How technologically difficult would it be to place a device with a magnetic field to capture, concentrate and store the anti-protons and then later to transport them back to Earth? How does this compare to the technological challenges we face with fusion?

Comments are closed.