Researchers at a Geneva-based particle physics laboratory say that a recent discovery could eventually help us to understand the nature and origins of the universe.
According to CNN, the scientists at CERN have managed to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap. This was a breakthrough because the ability to understand this type of antimatter could shed light on why almost everything in the known universe consists of matter.
This discovery will allow scientists to compare matter and antimatter. Most theoretical physicists and cosmologists believe that matter and antimatter were produced in equal amounts when the universe was created. Understanding antimatter is currently one of the biggest challenges facing science.
In this experiment, the researchers created 38 antihydrogen atoms and held on to them for about a tenth of a second. That's long enough to study them, according to a professor on the team of CERN scientists who worked on the program. Antimatter has been very difficult to handle because matter and antimatter don't get on, destroying each other instantly on contact in a violent flash of energy.
This achievement by CERN was due to the researchers' ability to produce a magnetic field which was strongest near the walls of the trap for the antihydrogen atoms, falling to a minimum at the center. This caused the atoms to collect there in a vacuum. Thus, it prevented them from coming into contact with matter. But, it wasn't easy. It took the researchers five years and 335 times running the experiment in order to trap just 38 atoms.
CERN next plans to create a beam of antimatter which they hope will allow them to unpeel more of the mysteries surrounding it.