Canada's National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics Laboratoire national canadien pour la recherche en physique nucléaire et en physique des particules

ATLAS Scientists catch glimpse of the Primordial Universe

26 November 2010

After less than three weeks of colliding lead ions at the highest energies ever achieved, scientists at the LHC laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, already have brought new insight into the universe as it existed immediately after the Big Bang. Temperatures at the collision point reached trillions of degrees, about the temperature that the lead nuclei would literally melt into a “soup” of its basic building blocks. Indeed, scientists of the ATLAS collaboration are the first ever to observe direct evidence of “jets” of particles as they pass through this hot, primordial soup.  Detector technology developed in Canada was critical to this success. The ATLAS paper was accepted by the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters a few hours after submission.

This result highlights the discovery potential of the LHC and the giant ATLAS detector.   The accelerator is operating at half energy and a fraction of the design intensity as  scientists and engineers are methodically increase its capabilities, yet ground-breaking results are already starting to appear.  This direct observation of so-called “jet quenching” may be the strongest evidence yet of formation of a “quark-gluon” plasma, predicted by theorists to have existed about a billionth of a second after the Big Bang.  Scientists now have another avenue to study this ultra-exotic form of matter.

Canadian-built detectors called “forward calorimeters” were instrumental to this observation.  These particle detectors need to operate in the most intense interactions hot-spots near the LHC collision points, and took years to develop, test a