In its quest to unlock the complexity of particle physics, CERN has discovered five new subatomic particles. With this discovery, physicists hope they can unlock the mystery of how the nuclei of atoms are bound together.
These five new particles are actually five different versions of Omega-c-zero, Ωc0, a particle made of two strange quarks and one charm quark. As reported in a research paper, these new objects represent five excited states of the same particle, each with a little bit more energy than the standard Ωc0.
Ωc0 is part of the same family of protons and neutrons, the so-called “baryons” because they have three quarks, the fundamental building blocks of matter. Physicists at CERN are trying to understand how quarks interact with each other and to do so they are colliding particles to see what can possibly form.
The Omega-c particle has been known to science since 1994, and quantum chromodynamics has hinted that there are heavier versions out there waiting to be found. By colliding protons together, the experiment LHCb was able to spot them.
“These particles have been hiding in plain sight for years, but it has taken the exquisite sensitivity of the LHCb to bring them to our attention,” Professor Tara Shears of Liverpool University, who works on the LHCb, told BBC News.
Physicists have codified this fundamental interaction, known as the strong nuclear force, in a very complex theory known as quantum chromodynamics. The data obtained by CERN and other labs are helping to test this.
“This is a striking discovery that will shed light on how quarks bind together,” added Dr Greig Cowan of the University of Edinburgh, who also works on the LHCb. “It may have implications not only to better understand protons and neutrons, but also more exotic multiquark states, such as pentaquarks and tetraquarks.”