Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have discovered five new subatomic particles that “have been hiding in plain sight for years,” according to one of the researchers working at the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator. By studying their properties, physicists may be able to develop a better understanding of how all matter is bound together.
The particles are varied, high-energy forms of the Omega-c baryon—a subatomic particle made up of three smaller building blocks called quarks. Until now, physicists suspected but had not been able to verify the existence of the different forms of the Omega-c baryon.
While the Omega-c baryon has been more mysterious, scientists know more about other baryons, the most common of which are neutrons and protons. These particles, along with their component quarks, are glued together by the nuclear “strong force,” which keeps the atom in tact.
Quarks come in six “flavors”: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom. Neutrons and protons contain up and down quarks.
Here’s Pallab Ghosh, reporting for BBC News:
The Omega-c baryon is in the same family of particles as the neutron and proton, but it can be thought of as a more exotic cousin. It too is made up of quarks but they are called “Charm” and “Strange”, and they are heavier versions of the Up and Down quarks.
By studying how the two “strange” and one “charm” quark are bound together to make up the Omega-c baryon, physicists hope to shed more light on the strong force, which in turn will help us understand why neutrons and protons bind into the nuclei of atoms and not fly apart into space.
CERN, the organization that runs the LHC, notes that the observation of five new particles at the same time is “a rather unique event.” The team has published detailed results on the arXiv.
(This news item first appeared on www.pbs.org. Author : Annette Choi)