Hypernuclei Discovered –The Core of Strange Matter that May Exist in Distant Reaches of the Universe



Physicists in Italy have discovered the first evidence of a rare nucleus that doesn’t exist in nature and lives for just 10-10 seconds before decaying. It’s a type of hypernucleus that, like all nuclei, contains an assortment of neutrons and protons. Unlike ordinary nuclei, hypernuclei also contain at least one hyperon, a particle that consists of three quarks, including at least one strange quark. Hypernuclei are thought to form the core of strange matter that may exist in distant parts of the universe, and could also allow physicists to probe the inside of the nucleus.

The hypernucleus investigated here, reports Physorg.com, is called "hydrogen six Lambda" (6ΛH), was first predicted to exist in 1963. In a study published in a recent issue of Physical Review Letters, physicists working in the FINUDA experiment at the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare – Laboratori Nazionali di Frascati (INFN-LNF) in Frascati, Italy, reported finding the first evidence for the particle. The FINUDA collaboration’s analysis of millions of events has turned up three events for the rare hypernucleus.

When scientists first discovered the L hyperon in 1947, they observed a similarly longer lifetime than predicted for this “strange” object. That observation led to the idea of the existence of the strange quark, with strangeness being the property that causes the quark to live so long.

As the first evidence for 6ΛH hypernuclei, the results could shed light on strange matter, which is hypothesized to exist at the center of ultra-dense neutron stars. The physicists hope to investigate strange matter further by producing strange nuclear systems.

More information: M. Agnello, et al. “Evidence for Heavy Hyperhydrogen 6ΛH.” Physical Review Letters 108, 042501 (2012) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.108.042501

The Daily Galaxy via physorg.com

Image credit; http://chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2002/g541/

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