Hydrogen is a neutral atom. Its single electron orbits a single proton, and the net effect is no electrical charge. But what about hydrogen’s antimatter counterpart, antihydrogen? Made of a positron that orbits an antiproton, the antihydrogen atom should be neutral too. Various results have indicated as much, but because the charge of antiatoms is
Theory and observations support the view that antimatter experiences gravity just as ordinary matter does, but the evidence so far has been indirect. Indeed, some theorists speculate that antimatter is antigravitational, that it may fall “up” instead of “down.” Led by Berkeley Lab physicists, the ALPHA Collaboration at CERN has made direct measurements of the gravitational mass of atoms of antihydrogen, testing how they fall and in what direction.
Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have played leading roles in designing and operating ALPHA, the CERN experiment that was the first to capture and hold atoms of antihydrogen, a single antiproton orbited by a single positron. Now, by measuring antihydrogen’s hyperfine structure, ALPHA has achieved another first in antimatter science with the very first measurements of the energy spectrum of an anti-atom.
Physicists in Berkeley Lab’s Accelerator and Fusion Research Division are key members of the international ALPHA Collaboration at CERN in Geneva, which has succeeded in storing a total of 309 antihydrogen atoms, many of them for as long as 1,000 seconds (almost 17 minutes) and some for much longer — more than enough time to perform meaningful scientific experiments on confined anti-atoms.