BY STEVEN SPARKMAN
ANCHOR ALISON ARCHER
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The launch of the space shuttle Endeavour might have been delayed, but when it does launch, it will carry one of the most expensive pieces of equipment ever loaded onto a shuttle. The alpha magnetic spectrometer, or AMS, is a roughly $1.5 billion machine meant to probe the origins of our universe.
A writer for CBC News gives us some perspective on the massive machine.
“Think of the instrument as a detector on the Large Hadron Collider, but instead of using a giant ring of electro-magnets to accelerate particles close to the speed of light, we let distant galaxies do it for us. In fact, the particles hitting this detector in space will have much higher energy than anything that can be produced by humans on the ground.”
While the technology in the AMS is staggeringly complex, the mission is actually pretty simple: grab and analyze every passing particle it can. A writer for Gizmodo tells us how it will work.
“The 1900kg magnet in the AMS generates a magnetic field 3000 times stronger than Earth’s. When cosmic rays are deflected by this magnet, detectors analyse the rays’ properties ... to learn more about the existence and composition of antimatter and dark matter.”
Dark matter makes up most matter in our universe, but so far physicists don’t know what it is. A writer for Space.com says the AMS might finally be able to shed some light on the dark matter mystery.
“One of the leading candidates for dark matter is a particle known as the neutralino. If neutralinos exist, when they collide with each other, they should give off a large number of high-energy anti-electrons that the [AMS] can detect.”
Finding antimatter, which should be just as common as normal matter but strangely isn’t, is another AMS mission. Professor Samuel Ting of MIT compared the search to trying to catch a particular raindrop in a storm. But he told BBC News finding even a little would mean a lot to our understanding of the universe.
“The detection in space of the same anti-particle would have a totally different meaning. ... It’s very difficult to produce them, meaning by random processes of collision between cosmic rays, it is absolutely not possible to do that to the level of our sensitivity. … Meaning if we see one anti-helium, [it] has to come from an anti-star.” (Video source: AMS-02)
The researchers have also said the AMS could find something totally unpredicted, which might be the most exciting possibility of the whole mission.
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Transcript by Newsy.