Earth surrounded by a ring of anti-protons

earth magnetic field
Image via Wikipedia

The “solar weather forecast” for the next few years is for increasingly poor conditions – as the solar cycle picks up, more matter will fly out from the Sun and eventually collide with our planet’s magnetic field, where the trapped high energy particles will then lose energy by radiation, so potentially disrupting many of our communications systems.

The solar particles, though, are not responsible for everything trapped by the Earth’s magnetic field – cosmic rays provide much higher energy particles than anything that comes out of the Sun and, it seems, also fuel a belt of trapped anti-protons around the Earth (as reported in this week’s New Scientist).

Anti-matter – which mutually self-destructs on contact with matter is a fascinating subject: working out why there is so little of it (when physics suggests there should be equal quantities of it and matter) is at the heart of cosmologists attempts to explain the creation of the universe.

So far the only way to access it consistently has been produce it in high energy collisions in places like CERN. The fact that the Earth has several billion anti-protons spiralling around it’s magnetic field at any given time, may, therefore point to new ways for researchers to get at it without having to build ever bigger colliders – though obviously space satellites aren’t ten-pence-a-dozen either.