Tech Updates

There’s a tiny star spraying antimatter all over the Milky Way

Scientists at NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory recently uncovered a twinkling little star that might hold the key to several of the universe’s deepest mysteries.

Called a pulsar for its twinkle, the star’s scant the size of a large city. What makes it special is, as NASA describes it, the fact that it’s apparently spewing a “gargantuan stream of matter and antimatter” into our galaxy.


Here’s where we run into problems. Matter and antimatter don’t get along. When, for example, a quark or a particle collides with their respective antiquark or antiparticle, a process called annihilation occurs.

As Big Think’s Ethan Siegel put it:

If there were equal amounts of matter and antimatter in the Universe, almost all of it would have annihilated away. At present, there would be less than one particle of either matter or antimatter per cubic kilometer in the Universe remaining.

As it stands, however, the Universe is much denser than that by about a factor of a billion, and practically all of what remains is matter, not antimatter.

The big mystery surrounding the origin of the universe involves trying to figure out how we got from the moments after the Big Bang, where most physicists assume matter and antimatter formed in equal amounts, to nearly 14 billion years later where 99.999+% of what exists is matter.

Due to its rarity, anything we can learn about antimatter would help scientists to understand more about the Big Bang and, perhaps, even the period preceding it.

And that’s where our little diamond in the sky comes in.

A star emerges