Boffins poring over data from the Large Hadron Collider's “Beauty” experiment are blinking in surprise, having turned up five new particles in one hit.
The “hiding in plain sight” articles in data from the "LHCb" are all excited states of the baryon Omega-c-zero, Ωc0, and the CERN boffins saw the five new particles from its decay states (Ωc(3000)0, Ωc(3050)0, Ωc(3066)0, Ωc(3090)0 and Ωc(3119)0, with bracketed numbers showing mass measured in mega-electron-volts).
Ever since Ωc0 was first observed in 1994, scientists have predicted states like the five now spotted by CERN, but they needed LHCb's sensitivity to watch their brief life.
Because the decays are driven by the strong nuclear force, experiments like this are important to refining our understanding of that force.
Ωc0 is in the same class of baryon as protons and neutrons, made of charm and strange quarks instead of the up and down quarks seen in atomic nuclei particles.
LHCb scientists Dr Greig Cowan of the UK's University of Edinburgh told the BBC the discovery “will shed light on how quarks bind together. It may have implications not only to better understand protons and neutrons, but also more exotic multi-quark states, such as pentaquarks and tetraquarks.”
The investigation needed 3.3 inverse femtobarns of proton-proton collision data – close to 250 trillion collisions.
In its announcement, CERN says the next step will be to get the quantum numbers of the new particles.
A paper describing the discovery is at arXiv. ®