Scientists have found an extra-charming new subatomic particle they hope will help further explain a key force that binds matter together, reports the AP. Physicists at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe announced Thursday the fleeting discovery of a long theorized but never-before-seen type of baryon. Baryons are subatomic particles made up of quarks. Protons and neutrons are the most common baryons. Quarks are even smaller particles that come in six types, two common types that are light and four heavier types. The high-speed collisions at the world's biggest atom smasher created for a fraction of a second a baryon particle called Xi cc, said Oxford physicist Guy Wilkinson, who's part of the experiment.
The particle has two heavy quarks—both of a type that are called "charm"—and a light one. In the natural world, baryons have at most one heavy quark. It may have been brief, but in particle physics it lived for "an appreciably long time," he said. The two heavy quarks are in a dance that's just like the interaction of a star system with two suns, and the third lighter quark circles the dancing pair, Wilkinson said. "People have looked for it for a long time," he added. He said this opens up a whole new "family" of baryons for physicists to find and study. Chris Quigg, a theoretical physicist at the Fermilab near Chicago, who wasn't part of the discovery team, praised the find, noting "it gives us a lot to think about." The team has submitted a paper to the journal Physical Review Letters. (Read more discoveries stories.)