(Due to Blog problems this is a little later being posted than when I wrote it)
The past weeks have seen two significant discoveries in the Physics world encompassing modern ideas in physics.
First Antimatter atoms confined
A team collaborating with physicists at the CERN (the European organisation for nuclear research) have managed to confine single anti Hydrogen atoms, the antimatter equivalent of Hydrogen for times in excess of 170 milliseconds. The collaboration so far has only been able to confine 38 single atoms of anti Hydrogen so far from many attempts so Star Trek’s antimatter warp-drives and Dan Brown’s antimatter bombs are some way off yet.
Anti Hydrogen is comprised of a positron and an antiproton, the anti particles of an electron and proton. The physicists created the anti Hydrogen through slow, low energy collisions of the two antiparticles that comprise it. This method was first discovered and used in 2002, however the anti Hydrogen immediately annihilated upon interaction with matter in the walls of the collision chamber. To get around this problem the current set up employs magnetic fields that are strongest at the walls and weakest in the centre of the chamber which contain the single atoms in the middle of the chamber therefore to be studied.
The confinement of anti Hydrogen has significant implications for research into the standard model, in this case proving weather energy levels withing the anti Hydrogen are the same as those in regular Hydrogen. The standard model of particle physics ties together the fundamental forces of the subatomic world which in turn mediate the dynamics of the zoo of subatomic particles.
Young Black Hole Discovered
On the much larger scale, the past week has seen NASA’s Chandra X-ray observatory detect evidence of the youngest black hole known to us. This discovery allows astronomers to watch how black holes develop in their infancy.
The black hole has developed from a star in excess of 20 times the mass of the Sun that exploded in a supernova in 1975, approximately 50 million light years away. In the period of 1995-2007 a steady X-ray signal has been detected from this region of the sky by the German ROSAT satellite, the European space agency’s XMM Newton satellite and NASA’s Swift Satellite. As black holes are by definition hard to see as they emit no visible light, X-ray emission is significant in detecting possible black hole candidates. As matter falls towards the black hole it emits X-ray radiation due to a change of the matter’s gravitational potential energy.
This discovery suggests a black hole and if so it will be ideal to spread new insight on the physics surrounding black holes and their formation. However, it may also be a pulsar (a rotating neutron star) which again are too small to see but emit radiation in relation to their rotation speed. If it does turn out to be a neutron star it’ll be the youngest known pulsar beating the current of 920 years.