News / Science & Technology

Shuttle Endeavour's Mission and the Matter of Anti-Matter

The International Space Station is seen over Miami, Florida, in this 35mm frame photographed by STS-108 Commander DomInic Gorie aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour (file photo)
The International Space Station is seen over Miami, Florida, in this 35mm frame photographed by STS-108 Commander DomInic Gorie aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour (file photo)

Scientists hope to learn more about the origins of the universe once a sophisticated particle detector arrives at the earth-orbiting International Space Station and starts searching for anti-matter and dark matter. Researchers explained their goals for the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and the upcoming shuttle Endeavour mission at a NASA mission preview briefing in late March.  

The primary objective of this 14-day mission is to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station. Endeavour's commander, Mark Kelly, told journalists at a mission preview briefing at Johnson Space Center that this sophisticated instrument has been in development for 16 years.  

"It's going to look for anti-matter, dark matter, dark energy," said Kelly. "It's a collaboration from 16 different countries with 600 scientists, so we're pretty excited about what this means for science aboard the ISS and for, you know, real science on the origin of the universe."

Anti-matter. Dark matter. Origin of the universe. It all sounds pretty intimidating.

Not so, said the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer's principal investigator, Samuel Ting of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "In physics, everything appears to be complicated, but the basic idea is always very simple."

He said our understanding of the universe comes from our understanding of light rays. But the visible matter in the universe makes up only a fraction of the total mass that is known to exist.

"We know 90 percent of the matter in the universe cannot be seen," said Ting. "Because you cannot see it, that's why you call it dark matter. Nobody knows what dark matter is because you cannot see it."

But, Ting explained, just because you cannot see it does not mean you cannot detect it. He said the collision of dark matter with dark matter can produce particles, and if you calculate the number of particles produced in those collisions, you would see that the total is higher than what you would expect if you were measuring only ordinary cosmic ray collisions.

That sum, he said, gives you a hint of the non-visible part of the universe. So, that's dark matter. Then there is the matter of anti-matter.

"If the universe came from the Big Bang, before the Big Bang, it is a vacuum," said Ting. "Nothing exists in a vacuum. So, at the beginning, you have an electron, you must have a positron, so the charge is balanced. So you have matter, you must have anti-matter. Otherwise you would not have come from a vacuum."

The Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is a sophisticated detector that will look for elusive evidence of anti-matter, searching for anti-carbon and anti-helium among all the discernible particles. Ting used a down-to-earth example to explain this spectrometer's extraordinary precision.

"In the city of Houston, during a rainy season, you have about 10 billion raindrops per second. If you want to find one that's of a different color, it's somewhat difficult," said Ting.

The spectrometer that will be mounted to the space station's truss will search for the equivalent of that raindrop of a different color. It will give a glimpse of what can be detected, but cannot be seen. That, Ting explained, is what makes the space station such an amazing orbiting laboratory.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid