(CNN) — Scientists have captured antimatter atoms for the first time, a breakthrough that could eventually help us to understand the nature and origins of the universe.
Researchers at CERN, the Geneva-based particle physics laboratory, have managed to confine single antihydrogen atoms in a magnetic trap.
This will allow them to conduct a more detailed study of antihydrogen, which will in turn allow scientists to compare matter and antimatter.
In a precursor to today’s experiment, in 2002 scientists at CERN produced antihydrogen atoms in large quantities, but they had an incredibly short lifespan — just several milliseconds — because the antihydrogen came into contact with the walls of their containers and the two annihilated each other.
In this latest experiment the lifespan of the antihydrogen atoms was extended by using magnetic fields to trap them and thus prevent them from coming into contact with matter.
"This will help us understand the structure of space and time. For reasons that no one yet understands, nature ruled out antimatter… this inspires us to work that much harder to see if antimatter holds some secret."