Another experiment, starting in May, should detect the signature and determining whether it has anything to do with antiatoms
. Scientists can study slow antihydrogen with standard laser technology.
Creating a single antiatom was difficult - and for now, scientists say, making the millions needed for rocket fuel is impossible.
Because when antiatoms meet up with regular atoms, they crash and destroy one another, leaving behind a unique trail of subatomic debris.
Produced in an accelerator, these antiatoms lasted only 40 billionths of a second before annihilating in collisions with particles of ordinary matter.
During 3 weeks of observations, Oelert's team identified nine cases in which antiatoms had been created.
"There are 100-odd years of atomic physics that we can learn how to do again with antiatoms
Scientists couldn't study their properties, however, because the antiatoms were traveling at nearly light speed and were almost instantly annihilated by contact with matter.
The ATHENA team now expects to modify its setup in the next year or two to begin laser studies of the antiatoms' properties.--P.W.
However, the antiatoms
created at CERN and Fermilab travel far too quickly and don't last long enough for researchers to measure their characteristics.
Now, researchers have developed a convenient technique for capturing and chilling positrons in an environment suited to the production of antiatoms
. This achievement represents a key step toward creating antihydrogen, which consists of a positron orbiting a negatively charged antiproton nucleus.