Physicists discover mysterious X particles in quark-gluon plasma for the first time

(ORDO NEWS) — A mysterious particle thought to have existed for some time just after the Big Bang has been spotted for the first time in a ‘primordial soup’.

In particular, in a medium called quark-gluon plasma, generated at the Large Hadron Collider by colliding lead ions. There, among the trillions of particles formed as a result of these collisions, physicists were able to isolate 100 exotic dust particles known as X-particles.

“This is just the beginning of the story,” says physicist Yen-Jee Lee of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a member of the CMS International Collaboration, headquartered at CERN in Switzerland.

“We have shown that we can find the signal. In the next few years, we want to use quark-gluon plasma to study the internal structure of the X-particle, which could change our understanding of what kind of material the universe should produce.”

Just moments after the Big Bang , the very young universe was not made up of the material we see today. Instead, for a few millionths of a second, it was filled with a plasma superheated to trillions of degrees, consisting of elementary particles called quarks and gluons. This is a quark-gluon plasma.

In less time than it takes to blink, the plasma cooled down and the particles combined to form the protons and neutrons that make up normal matter today. But in this very short period of time, the particles of the quark-gluon plasma collided, stuck together and again parted in different configurations.

One of the configurations is such a mysterious particle that we don’t even know how it works. This is particle X, and it was very rarely and briefly seen in particle colliders – too short to be explored.

Theoretically, X particles can appear in very small bursts of quark-gluon plasma, which physicists have been creating for several years in particle accelerators. And it can give a better opportunity to understand them.

During the launch of the Large Hadron Collider in 2018, positively charged lead atoms collided with each other at high speed. Each of these roughly 13 billion collisions produced a stream of tens of thousands of particles. This is a frighteningly colossal amount of data to study.

Although the X particles are very short-lived, when they decay they produce a stream of particles with less mass. To simplify the process of analyzing the data, the team developed an algorithm to recognize patterns in X-particle decay. They then loaded the LHC data for 2018 into their software.

The algorithm identified a signal of a certain mass, which indicated the presence of about 100 X particles in the data. This is a great start.

“It’s almost unthinkable that we can isolate these 100 particles from this huge data set,” Lee said.

At the moment, there is not enough data to know more about the structure of the X-particle, but the discovery may bring us closer. Now that we know how to find the signature of the X particle, finding it in future datasets should be much easier. In turn, the more data we have, the easier it will be to study them.

Protons and neutrons are made up of three quarks. Physicists think X-particles could be made up of four particles, either tightly bound particles known as tetraquarks, or a new type of weakly bound particles made up of two mesons, each containing two quarks.


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