Researchers working in the Large Hadron Collider experiments have discovered a never-before-seen subatomic particle, the Xi_b^*0 made up of three quarks, a beauty quark, an astrange quark and either an up or down quark.
The announcement of the new discovery was made in a paper released by the CMS collaboration (CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid, one of a handful of detectors built into the 17-mile, or 27-kilometre, underground loop of the LHC machine).
"It's very rewarding," Vincenzo Chiochia, a University of Zurich physicist working on the CMS experiment, told LiveScience. "We work for projects that run for several years - from conception to data taking, it can take more than 10 years - so when you actually come up with a discovery, and you know this particle collider is among the few that can produce it, it's extremely exciting."
What particularly makes this finding unique and intriguing is that this is the first beauty baryon discovered in its excited state.
Baryons are the building blocks of protons and neutrons that are found in the nuclei of an atom. To find a beauty baryon in its excited state is extremely rare as they are extremely shortlived particles unlike the protons and neutrons. It is only a matter of fractions of seconds that these baryons will be decayed.
Forbes reported that if confirmed by peer review, this will mark the second particle discovered at the Large Hadron Collider in the last few months. Last December, researchers announced that they had discovered the Chi-b(3P), which had been predicted but not discovered.
The existence of the new particle had earlier been predicted in a theory called quantum chromodynamics. It predicts how the quark particles unite to form heavier particles. Until now, the subatomic particles had never been observed.
"It was expected to be more or less where it was found," Chiochia told LiveScience. "Not all of those heavy states have been discovered, so you have to look for all those particles. It may well be that the theory is not complete. In this particular case it was expected, but we have to keep looking for things that are unexpected."
The new discovery is regarded as fundamental in understanding more about the various forms of atomic interactions.