Researchers working on the Large Hadron Collider have revealed the discovery of a new subatomic particle – one that confirms scientific assumptions about how quarks bind together, foundational to the shaping of matter, according to MSNBC.
On Friday, the CERN physics research center in collaboration with the University of Zurich announced the discovery of the particle at the Compact Muon Solenoid, one of the Large Hadron Collider’s two main general-purpose detectors. Though the finding of the particle had been predicted, the finding of it was “really kind of a classic tour de force of experimental work,” according to Joe Incandela, the physicist in charge of the experiment that led to the discovery.
And now, the science-heavy part of the article. The particle is known as an excited neutral Xi-b baryon. It couldn’t be detected directly due to massive instability. Its existence was therefore assumed due to a pattern of decay into other subatomic particles. Xi-b is made up of three quarks, much like the protons and neutrons we all learned about in junior high. Protons and neutrons are a combination of “up” and “down” quarks. The Xi-b consists of an up, strange and bottom quark. The particles of the Xi-b are electrically neutral, with a spin of 3/2 and a mass comparable to a lithium atom, according to Zurich researchers. Though Xi-b has been previously detected in its ground state, the experiment run in the Large Hadron Collider’s proton-on-proton collisions are the first to be observed in their excited state, as well as the first discovered particles reported by the Compact Muon Solenoid collaboration, a project that pulls in thousands of researchers. The particle was detected during 21 experiments, meaning that researchers are convinced that Xi-b truly exists, and that its presence doesn’t represent a statistical fluke.
“The discovery of the new particle confirms the theory of how quarks bind and therefore helps to understand the strong interaction, one of the four basic forces of physics which determines the structure of matter,” said the university in a press release. Vincenzo Chiochia, one of the Compact Muon Solenoid physicists and one of the co-leaders of the search for Xi-b said that “finding this complicated decay in such a messy event makes us confident in our abilities to find other new particles in the future.”
Though Xi-b represents a huge break in the Large Hadron Collider’s mission, the real goal of the project is the discovery of the Higgs boson. It exists in theory, but confirmation of the particle could explain why some particles have mass and others don’t. CERN is confident that the Large Hadron Collider will be able to provide evidence of the Higgs boson by the end of this year.