Physicists at CERN have announced that five years after its discovery, the Higgs boson has been observed decaying into fundamental particles known as bottom quarks.
The major breakthrough was made using the ATLAS and CMS detectors, two experiments designed to analyze particle collisions, at the Large Hadron Collider, the most powerful particle accelerator on Earth.
Both teams submitted the findings for publication on Tuesday, Aug. 28.
Higgs Boson Decay
The Higgs boson is an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics responsible for giving mass to fundamental subatomic particles. Its existence was confirmed in December 2013.
Scientists have hypothesized that the Higgs boson decays to a pair of matter-antimatter bottom quarks 60 percent of the time. However, proving it was an almost impossible task.
Higgs boson is made in high-energy collisions of pars of particles accelerated to the speed of light. Once produced, the particles vanished almost instantaneously. It exists for about 0^minus 22 seconds before it decays.
Observing the Higgs boson directly is impossible, thus, scientists look at the particle's decay products to infer properties of the parent bosons. However, other types of proton-proton collisions can also produce bottom quarks, and because Higgs bosons are an incredible rarity (one out of every billion collisions), it is doubly more difficult to observe the most common Higgs boson decay.
Scientists from both ATLAS and CMS teams combined data and applied complex statistical analysis. According to CERN, the outcome from the combined datasets revealed "the decay of the Higgs boson to a pair of bottom quarks with a significance that exceeds 5 standard deviations."
This is the first time that scientists have seen evidence of a Higgs boson decaying to a bottom quark.
Significance Of The Discovery
"We now have the opportunity to study the Higgs boson in unprecedented detail and will be able to further challenge the Standard Model," stated Karl Jacobs, a spokesperson from the ATLAS collaboration.
The discovery is a major stepping stone to understanding the rate at which the Higgs boson decays into other particles as predicted by Standard Model.
"The analysis methods have now been shown to reach the precision required for exploration of the full physics landscape, including hopefully new physics that so far hides subtly," added Eckhard Elsen, director for research and computing at CERN.
The Large Hadron Collider will continue to operate until December. Then, it will undergo refurbishing and upgrades for two years. It will reopen in 2021.