TECH
07/22/2011 07:07 am ET Updated Sep 20, 2011

Xi-Sub-B Baryon, New Particle Discovered At Fermilab, May Bring Physicists Closer To Higgs Boson Particle

A team of scientists believe they are one step closer to discovering the hypothetical Higgs boson particle (aka 'God particle').

Physicists working at the Collision Detector at Fermilab (CDF) in Illinois have apparently discovered a new particle, Xi-sub-b, a particle that is long to have been predicted to exist but was only recently observed, according to Conceivably Tech.

The find was somewhat of an accident, though the Tevatron particle accelerator and collider (which incorporates the CDF) has become the location of a number of "bottom baryon" finds.

Baryons, including Xi-sub-b, are comprised of three subatomic particles called quarks. (Protons and neutrons are two of the best-known bayrons.) Wired explains Xi-sub-b's unique composition:

The xi-sub-b has an up quark, a strange quark (yes, that's its real name) and a heavy bottom quark (again, real name), meaning that it weighs around six times as much as a proton or neutron. [...] It doesn't stick around long, though -- travelling a fraction of a miliimetre before decaying into lighter particles.

The research behind this discovery may also prove an important step down the path to finding the more elusive Higgs boson particle. Fermilab's press release, issued on Thursday, stated that the Tevatron experiments are closing in on the critical mass sensitivity they need to find the theorized particle.

“This specific type of decay has never been measured before, and it gives us great confidence that our analysis works as we expect, and that we really are on the doorsteps of the Higgs particle,” Giovanni Punzi, co-spokesperson for the CDF collaboration, said in a statement, according to the press release.

Fermilab isn't the only institution that feels it's close to finding the so-called "God particle." In April, an apparent memo leaked from the research labs at CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the world's largest particle accelerator, that hinted the discovery may have already happened. Some, including a spokesperson for CERN, disputed this claim, however, and speculated that the theory was likely premature.