Antimatter belt around Earth discovered by Pamela craft
2011 08 08

From: bbc.co.uk



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

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.

The team says that this is evidence that bands of antiprotons, analogous to the Van Allen belts, hold the antiprotons in place - at least until they encounter the normal matter of the atmosphere, when they "annihilate" in a flash of light.

The band is "the most abundant source of antiprotons near the Earth", said Alessandro Bruno of the University of Bari, a co-author of the work.

"Trapped antiprotons can be lost in the interactions with atmospheric constituents, especially at low altitudes where the annihilation becomes the main loss mechanism," he told BBC News.

"Above altitudes of several hundred kilometres, the loss rate is significantly lower, allowing a large supply of antiprotons to be produced."

Dr Bruno said that, aside from confirming theoretical work that had long predicted the existence of these antimatter bands, the particles could also prove to be a novel fuel source for future spacecraft - an idea explored in a report for Nasa’s Institute for Advanced Concepts.



Related Articles


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »