Antiprotonic helium consists of an electron and antiproton that orbit around a helium nucleus. The hyperfine structure of this exotic type of matter is studied very closely by a CERN experiment in Japan called ASACUSA (Atomic Spectroscopy And Collisions Using Slow Antiprotons) using laser spectroscopy.
To create antiprotonic helium, antiprotons are mixed with helium gas so that they spontaneously remove one of the electrons that orbit around each of the helium atoms and take their places. However, this reaction will only occur for 3% of the gas.
From the time that antiprotonic helium is created, the antiprotons orbiting the helium nucleus will only remain in orbit for a few micro seconds until they fall rapidly into the nucleus, causing a proton-antiproton annihilation. Surprisingly, antiprotonic helium has the longest lifetime of all the other antiprotonic atoms.
ASACUSA physicists used a laser pulse (that if tuned correctly) will let the atom of antiprotonic helium absorb just enough energy so that the antiproton can jump from one energy level (aka orbit) to the other. Thus allowing physicists to determine the energy between orbits of an atom. Currently, laser and microwave precision spectroscopy of antiprotonic helium atoms is ASACUSA’s top priority. (Which is basically using two laser beams and pulsed microwave beams to further explore the ‘hyperfine energy levels’ of antiprotonic helium.)