Astrophysics

The Center Of The Milky Way Is Home To A Massive Fountain That Spews Antimatter

You wouldn't want to take a trip to the center of the Milky Way. There are a lot of wild and dangerous things there, including a spewing fountain of antimatter. But worry, you're safe to learn about this massive, violent plume of doom from a distance.

An Undetectable Annihilation Fountain

In 1997, a team of scientists made a bizarre discovery using the CGRO Oriented Scintillation Spectrometer Experiment (OSSE): antimatter billowing out of an invisible spout at the center of our galaxy. This spigot of antimatter creates a plume that rises some 3,500 light-years above the disk of our galaxy. That's a lot of invisible annihilation juice!

To be clear, antimatter is the equal, opposite version of the regular ol' matter that makes up everything around you. The thing about antimatter, though, is that it carries an opposite charge to regular matter and can't be detected in space. Oh, and the fun part: when antimatter comes into contact with matter, the two instantly annihilate each other. This violent crash creates gamma rays, which we are, indeed, able to detect.

Sorry, No Mystery Here

So, where did all of this antimatter come from? For years, some scientists believed the existence of this antimatter was evidence for famously elusive dark matter. But, alas, our hopes and dreams of observing dark matter were dashed in 2009 (for now, at least).

"There is no great mystery," said Richard Lingenfelter, one of the research scientists who conducted the studies. "The observed distribution of gamma rays is in fact quite consistent with the standard picture."

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Written by Curiosity Staff February 17, 2017