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Interactive video lesson plan for: What is Antimatter?

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Nigel Goes to Space

Join Nigel as he takes you on his journey to the stars and beyond!

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Could isolated and stored anti-matter ever be used as a fuel for interplanetary or interstellar travel?

The Universe consists almost entirely of ordinary matter, and that’s a puzzle for cosmologists. If you’re a fan of Star Trek you’ll know antimatter powers the warp drive which propels the Starship Enterprise to boldly travel across the Universe. But it’s not just science fiction, antimatter is real. Where you create a flash of energy, out of that comes both matter and antimatter. You can create it using particle accelerators, like the giant CERN accelerator in Switzerland.

In particle physics, antimatter is material composed of antiparticles, which have the same mass as particles of ordinary matter but opposite charges, as well as other particle properties such as lepton and baryon numbers and quantum spin. Collisions between particles and antiparticles lead to the annihilation of both, giving rise to variable proportions of intense photons, neutrinos, and less massive particle-antiparticle pairs. The total consequence of annihilation is a release of energy available for work, proportional to the total matter and antimatter mass, in accord with the mass-energy equivalence equation, E = mc2.

Nigel is an internationally acclaimed science populariser and author, specialising in astronomy and space.

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