The LHCb experiment being run by researchers at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, also known as ‘the beauty experiment’, is trying to unravel what happened after the Big Bang. While exploring that, researchers have stumbled on five new subatomic particles that could help to explain what holds the centre of atoms together.
The discovery arose from the LHCb detector’s precise recognition of particles and the large dataset accumulated during the first and second runs of the Large Hadron Collider. These two elements have allowed researchers to identify the new particles with what CERN describes as, ‘an overwhelming level of statistical significance – meaning that the discovery cannot be just a statistical fluke of data’.
Dr Grieg Cowan, of the University of Edinburgh, UK, is working on the project. In an article published on the BBC news website he describes the discovery as striking, ‘(it) will shed light on how quarks bind together. It may have implications not only to better understand protons and neutrons, but also more exotic multi-quark states, such as pentaquarks and tetraquarks.’
Past thinking now confirmed
The existence of omega-c baryon particles was confirmed in 1994 and since then physicists have always believed the particles appear in different forms. The newly discovered particles are all baryons – sub atomic particles comprised of three smaller units called quarks. Known as the basic building blocks of matter, there are six types of quark which are known as ‘up’, ‘down, ‘strange’, ‘charm’, top’, and ‘bottom’.
The particles were found to be excited states – a particle state that has a higher energy than the absolute minimum configuration (or ground state) – of omega-c-zero. The research is presented more fully at arXiv.org, on the Cornell University Library website.
The investigation needed close to 250 trillion collisions and in its announcement CERN says the next step is to establish what the quantum numbers of the new particles are.