Hunting for antimatter requires a serious expedition. Scientists aren’t looking for run-of-the-mill particles – they’re collecting cosmic radiation that could be the signature of primordial black holes or other forms of dark matter. With instruments suspended from enormous scientific balloons, they’re looking for a launch site that offers long orbits and lots of particles to detect. Where’s one of the best places in the world to go particle hunting? Over the remote Antarctic continent!
To find out more about Antarctic scientific ballooning, we talked to Dr. John Mitchell, the lead scientist on BESS (the Balloon-borne Experiment with a Superconducting Spectrometer), a joint Japanese/US project that is studying antimatter in cosmic radiation. BESS has flown twice from Antarctica, and a team is headed back this month to recover their detectors from the last flight. We caught Dr. Mitchell just before he left for his latest Antarctic adventure. And no, the last name is not a coincidence – Dr. Mitchell is Blueshift producer Sara Mitchell’s father!