The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), nicknamed the world’s greatest atom smasher, is the most powerful particle accelerator in the world. Consisting of a 27 kilometer long ring of superconducting magnets, it sits in a tunnel 100 meters underground at CERN, a research facility in Switzerland.
The aim of the incredible machine is to hopefully uncover some of the answers surrounding dark matter, the origin of mass, supersymmetry, anti-matter, and other complex phenomena.
What are ghost particles?
Recently, scientists using LHC have identified “ghost particles” inside an atom for the first time ever. These tiny pieces of matter, named neutrinos, were spotted in a test run of the machine. The reason this discovery is so exciting is it opens up a whole new view of the subatomic world.
“Prior to this project, no sign of neutrinos has ever been seen at a particle collider,” paper co-author Jonathan Feng told the University of California. “This significant breakthrough is a step toward developing a deeper understanding of these elusive particles and the role they play in the universe.”
What are neutrinos?
Neutrinos are everywhere, with around 100 billion of them passing through each square centimeter of your body every second! Their origin is from the supernovas, cosmic rays, nuclear fire of stars, radioactive decay, and devices here on Earth like nuclear reactors.
Despite this high density of the subatomic particles around us, they don’t really interact with us much, have no electrical charge and almost no mass, allowing them to be previously elusive to humans.
How did they detect the particles?
Scientists made use of how these particles travel close to the speed of light by designing a new detector called FASERnu. This detector, layered with lead and tungsten, contains a light-detecting emulsion within it. After the LHC has been run, the FASERnu basically works like camera film. Scientists ‘develop’ the emulsion to track particle movement and also their interactions.
The results, published in Physical Review D, give an insight into the behavior of these subatomic particles. The more we understand about how our world works on this tiny scale, the more we can piece together how our mysterious universe operates.
Source study: Physical Review D – First neutrino interaction candidates at the LHC