INTEGRAL observes electron-positron annihilation
Credit: The SPI Team

Weapon of Mass Destruction Found

There's a fundamental symmetry to nature. For every particle of matter, there's a particle of antimatter. Antimatter has the same properties as matter, but the opposite electric charge. The antiparticle of the electron, for example, is the positron. When a particle meets its anti-particle, they annihilate and produce energy in the form of gamma-ray photons (which are particles of light). The Universe seems to be constructed of matter, not antimatter, a fact which is somewhat of an embarrassment to modern physics. If antimatter exists, where is it? Inspections of various suspected sites have actually turned up evidence of mass destruction, in the form of electron-positron annihilation. The image above is a montage of observations of the center of the Milky Way, obtained by the SPI instrument on the INTEGRAL Gamma-ray observatory. These observations show a bump of gamma-rays produced as electrons and positrons come together. Matter-antimatter annihilation the most efficient way to produce energy. Though such annihilation is a possible source of incredible power, fortunately this particular threat is so remote that it is no danger to earth.

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Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:25:30 EDT