(And after searching up and down, it looks like not a whisper of this amazing discovery on ATS!)
Huzzah! Another great milestone reached in the noble field of antimatter research!
In a paper published today in the journal Nature, the ALPHA collaboration reports the first ever measurement on the optical spectrum of an antimatter atom. This achievement features technological developments that open up a completely new era in high-precision antimatter research. It is the result of over 20 years of work by the CERN antimatter community.
Essentially, when antimatter meets matter, they cancel each other out and release energy in the form of light.
“Using a laser to observe a transition in antihydrogen…” this light was then compared to that of a hydrogen atom.
Through the “…observation of a spectral line in an antihydrogen atom, allowing the light spectrum of matter and antimatter to be compared…’, they were able to confirm the long-held theory that “…hydrogen and antihydrogen should have identical spectroscopic characteristics.”
Excellent breakdown of the detection process: Science Daily Article
Here’s the original paper as it appears in Nature : The spectrum of the hydrogen atom has played a central part in fundamental physics in the past 200 years. Historical examples of its significance include the wavelength measurements of absorption lines in the solar spectrum by Fraunhofer, the identification of transition lines by Balmer, Lyman et al., the empirical description of allowed wavelengths by Rydberg, the quantum model of Bohr, the capability of quantum electrodynamics to precisely predict transition frequencies, and modern measurements of the 1S–2S transition by Hänsch1 to a precision of a few parts in 1015. Recently, we have achieved the technological advances to allow us to focus on antihydrogen—the antimatter equivalent of hydrogen2,3,4. The Standard Model predicts that there should have been equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the primordial Universe after the Big Bang, but today’s Universe is observed to consist almost entirely of ordinary matter. This motivates physicists to carefully study antimatter, to see if there is a small asymmetry in the laws of physics that govern the two types of matter. In particular, the CPT (charge conjugation, parity reversal, time reversal) Theorem, a cornerstone of the Standard Model, requires that hydrogen and antihydrogen have the same spectrum. Here we report the observation of the 1S–2S transition in magnetically trapped atoms of antihydrogen in the ALPHA-2 apparatus at CERN. We determine that the frequency of the transition, driven by two photons from a laser at 243 nm, is consistent with that expected for hydrogen in the same environment. This laser excitation of a quantum state of an atom of antimatter represents a highly precise measurement performed on an anti-atom. Our result is consistent with CPT invariance at a relative precision of ~2 × 10−10.