Scientists working on the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) near Geneva, Switzerland did something no other scientists have done. They stored atoms of antihydrogen for 1000 seconds (~16 minutes) which is 10,000 times longer than they’ve ever done before. By trapping and observing antimatter for that long, scientists can better understand the properties of it.
How did they do it? They worked on a new system that would cloud the antihydrogen in a magnetic trap. New Scientist says:
The ALPHA team want to keep antimatter intact long enough to study it, so last year they worked out how to hold a cloud of antihydrogen in a magnetic trap. Not for long, though: collisions with trace gases would have either annihilated the anti-atoms or given them the energy to escape, so the team opened the trap after 170 milliseconds and observed the resulting annihilations, verifying that antimatter had been made.
This time around, they used the same method but also cooled the antiprotons used to create the antihydrogen, which lowered the energy of the antimatter,but increased the chance that more could be collected. The eventual goal is to understand antimatter—is it an exact mirror image of matter? How does it move? Scientists have a chance to finally find out. [New Scientist via PopSci]