Scientists working at the world’s biggest atom-smasher said they have discovered a new kind of particle called pentaquarks on Tuesday.
The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment reported the discovery and has submitted a paper reporting the findings to the journal Physical Review Letters.
LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson said: “[The particle] represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over 50 years of experimental searches.
“Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted.”
The existence of pentaquarks was first proposed in the 1960s by American physicists Murray Gell-Mann, who coined the term “quark” and received the Nobel Prize in 1969, and Georg Zweig. This quark model – comprised of three fractionally charged objects – also allows the existence of other quark composite states, such as pentaquarks composed of four quarks and an antiquark. Earlier experiments that have searched for pentaquarks have proved inconclusive.
The LHCb has been able to look for pentaquarks from many perspectives, CERN said, with all pointing to the same conclusion. “It’s as if the previous searches were looking for silhouettes in the dark, whereas LHCb conducted the search with the lights on and from all angles. The next step in the analysis will be to study how the quarks are bound together within the pentaquarks,” it said in a statement.
The LHCb experiment specialises in investigating the slight differences between matter and antimatter by studying a type of particle called the “beauty quark”, or “b quark”.