The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest atom smasher, has just discovered at least two previously unknown particles.
The 17-mile (27 km) underground ring near Geneva recently discovered two baryons and a hint of another particle, according to a statement from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), which runs the LHC. Baryons are fundamental subatomic particles that each consist of three quarks. The quarks in turn are even smaller particles that occur in different "flavors": up, down, above, below, strange and charming.
Each type of baryon has a different mix of quarks. Protons, for example, are baryons and consist of two up-quarks and one down quark each, according to the statement. The two newly discovered particles are classified as lower baryons. [7 Strange Facts About Quarks]
The first, called Σb (6097) +, consists of one lower quark and two upward quarks, while the second one, called Σb (6097), consists of one lower quark and two downward quarks.
The LHCb (b stands for beauty) experiment found these particles by breaking up protons and looking at the background velocity of certain particle decay events. The experiment looked for "bumps" or spikes above that rate, which could indicate signals from previously unknown particles, according to the statement.
Similar particles were observed in an earlier experiment at Fermilab in Illinois, but those particles differed because, according to the statement, they had less mass than their newly discovered brothers and sisters. The lower baryons discovered at CERN are, according to the statement, about 6 times more massive than protons. The "6097" number refers to their mass in million electron volts or MeV. (The mass of a proton is approximately 938 MeV).
As far as the third potential particle is concerned, the researchers only found indications that it exists. Named Z sub c–(4100), this particle could be a weird meson, a kind of unstable particle that shoots short in life during high-energy collisions and consists of two quarks and two antiquarks.
The CERN collisions showed some evidence that this intangible meson exists, but the evidence was lower than the statistical threshold that physicists use to claim "discovery" of a newly found particle.
Originally published on Live Science.