Updates tagged: “top quark”
A quarter-century after its discovery, physicists at the ATLAS Experiment are gaining new insight into the heaviest-known particle: the top quark. The huge amount of data collected during Run 2 of the LHC (2015-2018) has allowed physicists to study rare production processes of the top quark in great detail, including its production in association with other heavy elementary particles.
As the heaviest elementary particle, the top quark is appropriately named. It is ideally suited for precision measurements that test the limits of our understanding and could provide indirect hints at new physics. Physicists from around the world gathered in Beijing, China, last week at the annual TOP2019 conference to exchange the latest news, results and ideas on the top quark. For the ATLAS collaboration, TOP2019 proved a great success, with several excellent talks and posters presented by its members.
As the heaviest known particle, the top quark plays a key role in studies of fundamental interactions. Due to its short lifetime, the top quark decays before it can turn into a hadron. Thus, its properties are preserved and transferred to its decay products, which can in turn be measured in high-energy physics experiments. Such studies provide an excellent testing ground for the Standard Model and may provide clues for new physics.
As the heaviest known elementary particle, the top quark has a special place in LHC physics. Top quark-antiquark pairs are copiously produced in collisions recorded by the ATLAS detector, providing a rich testing ground for theoretical models of particle collisions at the highest accessible energies. Any deviations between measurements and predictions could point to shortcomings in the theory – or first hints of something completely new.
Among the most intriguing particles studied by the ATLAS collaboration is the top quark. As the heaviest known fundamental particle, it plays a unique role in the Standard Model of particle physics and – perhaps – in yet unseen physics beyond the Standard Model. A new ATLAS result, presented today at the European Physical Society Conference on High-Energy Physics (EPS-HEP) in Ghent, Belgium, examines the full Run 2 dataset to find evidence of charge asymmetry in top-quark pair events, with a significance of four standard deviations.
For several decades, particle physicists having been trying to better understand Nature at the smallest distances by colliding particles at the highest energies. While the Standard Model of particle physics has successfully explained most of the results that have arisen from experiments, many phenomena remain baffling. Thus, new particles, forces or more general concepts must exist and – if the history of particle physics is any indication – they could well be revealed at the high-energy frontier.
While the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in 2012 confirmed many Standard Model predictions, it has raised as many questions as it has answered. For example, interactions at the quantum level between the Higgs boson and the top quark ought to lead to a huge Higgs boson mass, possibly as large as the Planck mass (>1018 GeV). So why is it only 125 GeV? Is there a mechanism at play to cancel these large quantum corrections caused by the top quark (t)? Finding a way to explain the lightness of the Higgs boson is one of the top (no pun intended) questions in particle physics.
The top quark is a unique particle due to its phenomenally high mass. It decays in less than 10-24 seconds, that is, before it had time to interact with any other particles. Therefore many of its quantum numbers, such as its spin, are transferred to its decay particles. When created in matter-antimatter pairs, the spins of the top quark and the antitop quark are expected to be correlated to some degree.
The ATLAS Collaboration at CERN has announced the observation of Higgs bosons produced together with a top-quark pair. Observing this extremely rare process is a significant milestone for the field of High-Energy Physics. It allows physicists to test critical parameters of the Higgs mechanism in the Standard Model of particle physics.
According to the Standard Model, quarks, charged leptons, and W and Z bosons obtain their mass through interactions with the Higgs field, whose fluctuation gives rise to the Higgs boson. To test this theory, ATLAS takes high-precision measurements of the interactions between the Higgs boson and these particles. While experiments had observed and measured the Higgs boson decaying to pairs of W or Z bosons, photons or tau leptons, the Higgs coupling to quarks had – until now – not been observed.