Help the AEgIS experiment at CERN to work out how antimatter is affected by gravity. Just join the dots!
The observable universe is composed almost entirely of matter but we can produce stuff called antimatter in the lab. Antimatter is material composed of antiparticles.
Antiparticles have the same mass as normal matter particles but the opposite charge. When an antiparticle collides with an ordinary matter particle they both annihilate - producing a burst of other particles and radiation.
Antiparticles should interact gravitationally just like particles of ordinary matter because Einstein's weak equivalence principle states that gravity doesn't depend on composition. But if they don't then gravity is much more complicated than our current understanding indicates.
The AEgIS experiment at CERN shoots antihydrogen atoms horizontally - whereupon they fly and fall - at a wall made of matter. On hitting the wall the antihydrogen annihilates with a matter nucleus in the wall to produce a burst of mostly pions and some heavier particles. These particles travel through a special gel called an emulsion which makes their tracks visible. Pions leave thin tracks while heavier particles leave much fatter tracks.
Tracing these tracks to their point of origin tells the AEgIS team exactly where the annihilation occurred, which in turn allows them to calculate how far each particle travels. They can then work out - from the distance each particle flew and fell - how antimatter interacts with gravity.
AEgIS will start annihilating antihydrogen atoms in 2015. In the meantime the team needs to better understand the process of annihilation by shooting antiprotons at different target materials which will result in different kinds of particle bursts. AEgIS scientists need to fine-tune their understanding of annihilation by mapping the particle tracks and counting the number of thin and fat tracks for many particle bursts.
Humans are way better at interpreting the particle tracks than machines so the AEgIS team needs your big brains and keen eyes to map the particles’ path through the emulsion. All you have to do is join the dots!
AEgIS scientists also want to be able to classify each track as fat or thin. Please get in touch if you would like to help to write the software to carry out this classification.
The images here have been uploaded directly from AEgIS and have not yet been analyzed by scientists. In fact, this is the first time CERN has released detector data for public analysis. So you can be the first to analyze this data and make a real contribution to CERN’s research.
The input you provide will be openly available and the results will be visualized on this page as a 3D Model.