Antiprotons encircle the Earth, held by the magnetic field of our planet. Antimatter, which can be minutes or hours before the meeting with ordinary matter and subsequent annihilation, can be, in theory, highly efficient fuel for rockets of the future.
Charged particles called cosmic rays that constantly come from outer space and encounter the Earth’s atmosphere, forming a new substance, including antiparticles. Many of these fall within the Van Allen radiation belts which constitute two ponchikoobraznyh zones around the world in which the charged particles are retained by the magnetic field of the earth.
Satellites have already discovered the radiation belts positrons - antimaterial counterparts of electrons. Now, were discovered and antiprotons, which have 2,000 times more mass.
Heavier particles are wider and orbit, and less weak magnetic field also lead to wider rotation trajectories of particles.
Piergiorgio Pikotstsa of the University of Rome, together with his colleagues, discovered antiprotons using PAMELA cosmic ray sensor on the Russian satellite Resource-DK. This spacecraft flies through the inner radiation belt over the south Atlantic Ocean.
In the period from July 2006 to December 2008, PAMELA detected 28 antiprotons held by the magnetic field emanating from the south pole of the Earth (published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, DOI: 10.1088/2041-8205/737/2/l29). Although PAMELA available only a small part of the inner radiation belt, it can be assumed that the antiprotons are found throughout its volume. "We’re talking about billions of particles," - said a member of the team, Francesco Kafagna the University of Bari in Italy.
"I’d like to mention one very interesting detail: the Earth’s magnetic field acts like a magnetic traps that we use in the lab," - said Rolf Landua of CERN particle lab nearby Geneva, Switzerland. In the laboratory, scientists are trying to capture antimatter as possible over a longer period of time in order to compare its properties to the behavior of ordinary matter.
Alessandro Bruno, another team member from Bari, said that antimatter in the Earth’s radiation belts, maybe once involved in a fuel for spaceships. Future rockets could be used to power the reaction of matter and antimatter, which produce energy even more efficiently than nuclear fusion in the sun’s core.
"It is the most abundant source of antiprotons near the Earth" - said Bruno. "Who knows, maybe one day, spaceships will refuel in the inner radiation belt, before going further."
Around the giant planets on the assumptions of scientists, is in the millions or billions of times more antiprotons.