Magnetic Spectrometer AMS will place a sensitive particle detector in Earth
orbit to learn the makeup of the particles that exist in the cosmic void. The
detector will allow scientists to determine the number, energy and charge of
the particles that bombard the Earth from space. The scientists can use this
information to determine how much antimatter exists in space, and how much
matter exists in the Universe.
A proton is one
of the most basic elementary particles of material making up the universe.
Along with neutrons, protons are a constituent of all atomic nuclei. One of the
particles that the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer experiment looks for is the
antiproton, the antiparticle of the proton. The antiproton has the same mass as
a proton, but has the opposite charge.When an antiparticle hits a proton, the
two particles are annihilated to create energy. By measuring the number of such
particles, scientists can get a better picture of what the Universe is made of.
This improved picture helps to measure the total mass of the Universe.
The AMS experiment objective is to measure how much antimatter exists.
Because charged particles such as the antiprotons are absorbed by Earth's atmosphere,
the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer must be taken above the atmosphere, into space,
so it can take effective readings of these particles.
1998 AMS experiment, taken aloft by the Space Shuttle, was the first time a
sensitive particle detector was placed in orbit. This early experiment was
particularly helpful in calibrating the instrument so that a future mission
will be able to take even more accurate measurements.
continue to verify the fundamental laws that govern our Universe, they ask such
basic questions as: What are the ultimate building blocks of matter? What are
the fundamental forces through which these basic particles interact? AMS will
take a step toward answering these basic questions.