# 4-Momentum conservation for particle annihilation

Disclaimer: this is a homework question, so I am happy with just a hint or the expressions needed to proceed with my understanding.

I am working on the momentum conservation of a particle/anti-particle annihilation process, and I have been asked to show that the annihilation of a particle with a finite mass and its anti-particle cannot lead to the emission of only one photon.

I understand why this happens: the conservation of momentum. However, I would like show this in a more sophisticated 4-momentum proof...how would I go about showing that momentum is conserved for two photons but it is not conserved when the annihilation process creates just one photon...?

This may be a duplicate of: Proving the conservation of 4-momentum for a particle collision $A+B\to C+D$

• Go to the center-of-momentum frame.
– Danu
Oct 17, 2015 at 12:24
• I know that a photon has a non-zero momentum, so is it as easy as saying that for momentum to be conserved it has to have a photon moving in the opposite direction? (With the same momentum value, obviously resulting in a negative momentum relative to the CoM frame?) Oct 17, 2015 at 12:30

There are many possible proofs. Here is one that involves some practice with four-vectors. I write with mostly-minus metric st $p^2=m^2$.
You can write four-momentum conservation as $$p_1 + p_2 = a$$ Now Minkowski-square, finding $$2m^2 + 2 p_1 \cdot p_2 = 0 \Rightarrow p_1 \cdot p_2 < 0$$ Try to show that the latter inequality is impossible. Hint: evaluate the Minkowski product in the rest frame of $p_1$ or $p_2$.
Alternatively, as @Danu suggests, think about the centre of momentum frame, in which $\vec p_1 + \vec p_2 =0$. Can a photon have zero momentum but non-zero energy?