Photo/IllutrationThe SuperKEKB accelerator that saw the first electron-positron collisions (Provided by the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization)

  • Photo/Illustraion

TSUKUBA, Ibaraki Prefecture--The SuperKEKB particle accelerator has achieved its first particle collisions after one month in operation, marking a big step in the quest to discover how the universe was formed immediately after its birth.

The collisions of electrons and their antimatter counterpart positrons could unravel the mystery of why matter proliferated and antimatter all but vanished after both were produced in equal quantities at the Big Bang, according to the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization.

The SuperKEKB was designed to recreate the state of the universe immediately after it was born by smashing together electrons and positrons. When the two clash, they destroy each other, producing high energy.

The accelerator is installed 11 meters underground in a cylindrical tunnel laid out in a circle with a circumference of 3 kilometers, and has been in full fledged operation since late March.

At 12:38 a.m. on April 26, the Belle II detector at the SuperKEKB collider saw electrons and positrons colliding for the first time after being accelerated to nearly the speed of light, proving the experiment is proceeding as planned, according to the organization in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture.

The success could lead to explaining the mystery of what happened to antimatter, which has been inexplicable even with a theory developed by Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, which eventually led to their Nobel Prize in Physics in 2008.

In 1973, Kobayashi and Maskawa theoretically predicted the difference in fragility between matter after the birth of the universe and antimatter, its electrical opposite, which was proved by experiments using the KEKB, the predecessor to the SuperKEKB, earning them the Nobel Prize.

However, the scientists’ theory has not been able to fully explain why antimatter virtually vanished after the dawn of the universe. To unravel the mystery, the team needs to collect more data by producing more particle collisions.