A massive particle detector on the International Space Station (ISS) aims to find out where all the antimatter went after the Big Bang.
A seven-tonne particle detector parked for over a year on the International Space Station (ISS) aims to establish whether there is an unseen "dark universe" woven into the cosmos, the scientist leading the project said on Wednesday.
And the detector, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer or AMS, has already broken all records in registering some 17 billion cosmic rays and storing data on them for analysis, Nobel physics laureate Samuel Ting told a news conference.
"The question is: where is the universe made from anti-matter?" said Ting. "It could be out there somewhere far away producing particles that we could detect with the AMS."
Physicists say that the event 13.7 billion years ago that brought the known universe into existence and has been dubbed the "Big Bang" must have created equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. But then anti-matter largely disappeared.
Why that happened is one of the great mysteries of the cosmos which are being investigated through the AMS and scientific analysts back on the ground at CERN, the European particle physics research centre where Ting spoke.
The purpose of the AMS programme, he said, "is to search for phenomena that so far we have not had the imagination or the technology to discover".
Some researchers have suggested that the invisible "dark matter" estimated to make up about 25 percent of the known universe could be linked to anti-matter, but others say that is highly unlikely.
These scientists argue that anti-matter could not survive in the close proximity to parts of the visible cosmos that latest observations suggest dark matter occupies - sometimes like a wafting veil between planets and stars.
Matter and anti-matter are almost identical, with the same mass but opposite spin and energy charges. They can form separate parts of some elementary particles but if they are mixed together they are both destroyed instantaneously.