London: Researchers have spotted a rare, fleeting "beauty" particle in the first run of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
After starting to work on 30 March, one of LHC’s four large detectors detected evidence of a beauty quark – also, less poetically, known as a bottom quark – on 5 April.
The find should be the first of many beauty decays that LHCb, the LHC``s beauty experiment, will observe, and demonstrates the detector is working as planned.
This first recorded particle is a meson composed of an anti-beauty quark – the beauty quark``s antiparticle – and an up quark – one of the two common quarks that make up protons and neutrons.
While up quarks last for billions of years, the large beauty quarks swiftly decay into lower-energy particles in about 1.5 x 10-12 seconds.
After travelling only 2 millimetres in the accelerator, the beauty quark decayed to a lighter quark – still paired with the original up quark – and the extra energy was carried off in the form of electron-like particles called muons.
"It``s a very rare event – it``s like a needle in a haystack. In these 10 million data or so we find this one event," New Scientist quoted Andreas Schopper, a spokesperson for LHCb as saying.
The particle was detected by LHCb``s automatic trigger system, which is designed to recognise unusual events or particles but to ignore the vast majority of proton collisions.
Less than 1 per cent of the collisions will be of interest to LHCb scientists.
Once an event is recorded, the details of detector signals are sent out to computing centres on five continents, where over a few days software reconstructs particle tracks.
"It is the teamwork of the collaboration. This is the first time we have really detected and reconstructed such a big particle," said Schopper.
LHCb will look at many such decays in order to shed light on what happened to the antimatter that should have been created alongside the matter that makes up our universe.
The experiment is designed to examine what happens to beauty quarks, which form in high-energy explosions – not least the big bang.
By comparing the decay products of beauty quarks, LHC researchers hope to find clues as to why our universe seems to favour matter over antimatter.
"While precision measurements will need many millions of beauty particles, as with kisses, the first is always very special. It shows that the detector is up to its task, performing very well in identifying the complex decay pattern," said Jurgen Schukraft, spokesperson for the LHC``s ALICE experiment.