An (anti)matter of life and death, in space.

26 November 2012

Milky Way Galaxy

The Milky Way Galaxy, above Paranal Laboratory.Credit: European Southern Observatory

Just after the Big Bang, scientists theorise the Universe was equal parts matter and its opposite, but now, antimatter is almost non-existent. Astronomer-detectives are on the case.

Federation Fellow of The University of Sydney’s School of Physics, and Senior Fellow at Merton College, Oxford, Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn will delve into the mysteries of antimatter at the final Monash Centre for Astrophysics (MoCA) public lecture for 2012, to be held this week.

The free talks, hosted regularly by MoCA, feature top astrophysics researchers who explain the mysteries of space to interested members of the public. Audience members are encouraged to ask questions following the talks.

First discovered in the 1930s, antimatter remains cryptic, with scientists still working  to understand exactly what it is, and where most of it disappeared to after the creation of the universe.

What is known, is that antiparticles have the opposite charge and quantum spin to matter particles. When matter and antimatter combine, both are annihilated and converted into pure energy.

MoCA researcher Dr Samantha Penny said the asymmetry of matter and antimatter was one of the great unsolved problems of modern physics.

“The 80-year old mystery of antimatter recently became more complex when the astronomers observed evidence of the annihilation of antimatter emanating from the centre of our galaxy,” Dr Penny said.

“This exciting discovery means that antimatter does still exist in space, and is in fact, being destroyed at the astonishing rate of 16 billion tonnes every second.”

Professor Bland-Hawthorn will discuss the creation, existence and unknowns of antimatter the MoCA lecture.

“It’s not completely gone, but what is it doing there?” Professor Bland Hawthorn said.

“There is a massive black hole four million times the mass of the sun in the centre of our galaxy. Is it somehow related to that?”

Professor Joss Bland-Hawthorn will deliver ‘Nemesis: the search for antimatter in the Universe’ at 6.30pm, Thursday November 29 in Lecture Theatre S3, Monash University Clayton campus.

No registration is necessary. More information is available from the MoCA website

Editors note: Full article can be found here.


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