Researchers at the CERN lab, the European organisation for nuclear research, claim to have taken antimatter "to a new level".
Antimatter is basically matter consisting of elementary particles, which are the anti-particles of those making up normal matter.
In a paper published in the journal Nature, the scientists' manage to observe the Lyman-alpha electronic transition in the antihydrogen atom, the antimatter counterpart of hydrogen, for the first time.
This experiment was conducted as part of the group's Alpha collaboration project, an international collaboration which studies the fundamental symmetries between matter and antimatter.
It's important because the Lyman-alpha transition is one of several in the Lyman series of electronic transitions that were discovered in atomic hydrogen just over a century ago by physicist Theodore Lyman.
The transition occurs when an electron jumps from the lowest-energy level to a higher energy level and then falls back to the lower level by emitting a photon at a wavelength of 121.6 nanometres.
"It is a special transition," CERN claimed in a blog post. "It allows researchers to probe the state of the medium that lies between galaxies and test models of the cosmos."
But there's more. In antimatter studies, CERN said the discovery could enable precise measurements of how antihydrogen responds to light and gravity.
"Finding any slight difference between the behaviour of antimatter and matter would rock the foundations of the Standard Model of particle physics and, perhaps, cast light on why the universe is made up almost entirely of matter, even though equal amounts of antimatter should have been produced in the Big Bang," the group said.
Jeffrey Hangst, a spokesperson for the Alpha experiment said the Lyman-alpha transition is a breakthrough in science as it is notoriously difficult to probe, even in 'normal' hydrogen.
"But by exploiting our ability to trap and hold large numbers of antihydrogen atoms for several hours, and using a pulsed source of Lyman-alpha laser light, we were able to observe this transition," he said.
According to CERN, the experiment is one of many ways that demonstrate how Alpha is quickly paving the way for precision experiments that could uncover as-yet unseen differences between the behaviour of matter and antimatter.
The next goal for the team is laser cooling, said Hangst, which will be "a game-changer for precision spectroscopy and gravitational measurements".
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