The General AntiParticle Spectrometer (GAPS) is an experiment aimed at studying the extremely rare antimatter component in cosmic rays and specialized in detecting low-energy antinuclei (antiprotons, antideuteron and antihelium), lower than 0.25 GeV/n (“giga-electronvolt per nucleon”).

The GAPS will use an innovative technique to measure antinuclei in cosmic rays, identifying the decays of exotic atoms resulting from the capture of antinuclei by the atoms of the material of the instrument’s detectors. The antinuclei slow down as they cross the apparatus, until they annihilate. Before annihilating at rest, the antinucleus is captured by the material and produces an excited exotic atom. As the atom de-excites, it emits X-rays of well-defined energies in the antinuclei transition between the excited levels of the atom. The measurement of the energy of such X-rays, along with the measurement of time of flight and energy losses due to antinucleus ionization and the measurement of the multiplicity of secondary particles (pions, protons, etc.) emitted when the antinucleus annihilates, allows a highly precise detection of antinuclei.

The antideuteron and the antihelium are extremely rare components of the cosmic rays, which as of today were never detected by detectors in space. The observation of a single particle of antideuteron and antihelium may provide unprecedented information to understand the Universe, by disclosing unique details on the nature of dark matter and the propagation models of cosmic rays.

The GAPS experiment will be carried out from Antarctic with a long-duration flight (30 days) on a stratospheric balloon. The launch window is scheduled to open between December 2021 and February 2022, from the American McMurdo station. With just one flight, the expected scientific goals will be reached as regards the physics of antiprotons. Three long-duration flights will suffice to measure enough cosmic rays and reach the expected scientific goals as regards the measurement of antideuteron and antihelium.

The GAPS mission is sponsored by the NASA, with the participation of researchers from American, Japanese and Italian universities and institutions. The Italian Space Agency has been participating in the GAPS mission since 2018, by supporting researchers from the INFN (National Institute for Nuclear Physics) and the Universities of Florence, Pavia, Bergamo, Naples, Turin, Rome Tor Vergata and Trieste. The Italian contribution is focused on developing several electronic components of the instrument and the simulations and methodologies for data analysis, as well as on the analysis and interpretation of data that will be collected by the instrument during the flights on the stratospheric balloon.

‣ News

WEDNESDAY 14 FEBRUARY 2024

Ready, set, go! Euclid begins its dark Universe survey ‣

ASI - Agenzia Spaziale Italiana

Today, ESA’s space telescope Euclid begins its survey of the dark Universe. Over the next six years, Euclid will observe billions of galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history. Learn how the team prepared Euclid in the months after launch for this gigantic cosmic quest. 

MORE...

FRIDAY 09 FEBRUARY 2024

COSMO-SkyMed images to monitor volcanic activities in Hawaii ‣

An important outcome of the interferometric COSMO-SkyMed data processing MORE...

THURSDAY 25 JANUARY 2024

LIMADOU COLLABORATION HITS ANOTHER TARGET ‣

Italian-made HEPD-02 and EFD-02 detectors have reached China MORE...

FRIDAY 22 DECEMBER 2023

PRISMA and volcano observations ‣

The Ebeko volcano MORE...

FRIDAY 01 DECEMBER 2023

ASI – Italian Space Agency upgrades access to MapItaly data ‣

Downloading of COSMO-SkyMed constellation images has never been so easy MORE...