Forget Helium 3, I want Antimatter!

Simulated Van Allen Belts generated by a plasm...

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One gram of antimatter, combined with one gram of matter yields the equivalent energy of 42.8 kilotones of TNT. However, artificially producing a gram of antimatter using current technology at CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research) would require enormously more energy than that and 2 billion years…or so we have thought! (details courtesy of CERN’s FAQ webpage)

Now the PAMELA satellite has found a few antiprotons orbiting the Earth…trapped in the planet’s Van Allen Radiation Belt.  Allegedly, they eventually happen when cosmic rays strike the Earth’s outer atmosphere and then become trapped by Earth’s magnetic field before they can escape or interact with other matter. Potentially, that makes them  a renewable source of energy.  I read it first on National Geographic’s website, but lots of folks are talking about it.

Ok…ponder that for a moment. Twenty-eight anti-protons striking the satellite’s magnetic spectrometer and calorimeter are not much, but they are a whole heck-of-a-lot more than anyone expected. Naturally occurring anti-matter in that amount of density, right here in orbit, is a shocking discovery that spawns new questions in my mind…

>How fast will this antimatter source replenish itself if we if we find a way to collect and use it?
>Might a larger magnetic field, like that of Saturn, Jupiter, or the Sun, contain more?
>How might we use this orbiting fuel source for deep-space propulsion?
>What does Phil Plait have to say about all this?

Let’s watch and find out!

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~ by Bill Housley on August 13, 2011.

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