Exotic particle formed at the beginning of the universe is detected for the first time

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For the first time, exotic particles known as X particles have been detected in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The researchers achieved this result by analyzing data from a quark-gluon “primordial soup”, which simulates the conditions of the universe shortly after the Big Bang.

Since the 1980s, scientists have used particle accelerators to test one of the models that describe what happened at the time of the Big Bang. This idea predicts that during the first 20 to 30 microseconds of the universe’s existence, a plasma formed by quarks and gluons spread rapidly.

Detecting the X particles

This quark-gluon plasma was superheated to trillions of degrees, but it didn’t last long because these particles collided, combined, and separated again, in different configurations, forming other types of rapidly decaying particles.

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Not much is yet known about these particles generated in primordial plasma, but the new research has taken a step toward a better understanding of these processes. When colliding positively charged lead atoms in an LHC run in 2018, scientists detected thousands of new particles.

In total, there were about 13 billion collisions, each with a shower of tens of thousands of resulting particles. To study such a dense amount of data, the researchers created an algorithm capable of recognizing the characteristic patterns of particles — specifically the decay of X particles.

As a result, the algorithm identified a signal at a specific mass that indicated the presence of about 100 X particles. While this is a small number, it is exciting that the scientists were able to come up with a method of identifying this exotic particle in such a robust dataset.

It is still too early to know more about the structure of X particles, but it will now be easier to find these signatures in future runs at the LHC. There are some proposals for the composition of X particles — perhaps it is made up of tetraquark (four strongly bound quarks), or a new type of loosely bound particle, made up of two mesons, each containing two quarks.

If particle X is composed of tetraquarks, its decay will be slower than in the second case. Scientists hope that this theoretical information will be useful when analyzing the signature and behavior of X particles in the LHC’s quark-gluon plasma. The research was published in Physical Review Letters.

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