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Detecting The Traces Of Mystery Matter

Date:
August 4, 2005
Source:
University of California - Davis
Summary:
Using high-speed collisions between gold atoms, scientists think they have re-created one of the most mysterious forms of matter in the universe -- quark-gluon plasma. This form of matter was present during the first microsecond of the Big Bang and may still exist at the cores of dense, distant stars. UC Davis physics professor Daniel Cebra is one of 543 collaborators on the research. His main role was building the electronic listening devices that collect information about the collisions, a job he compared to "troubleshooting 120,000 stereo systems."
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A splash of subatomic particles is created by the collision of gold atom nuclei traveling at nearly the speed of light in Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider. (Brookhaven National Laboratory/STAR Collaboration/courtesy graph)

Using high-speed collisions between gold atoms, scientists thinkthey have re-created one of the most mysterious forms of matter in theuniverse -- quark-gluon plasma. This form of matter was present duringthe first microsecond of the Big Bang and may still exist at the coresof dense, distant stars.

UC Davis physics professor Daniel Cebra is one of 543 collaboratorson the research. His main role was building the electronic listeningdevices that collect information about the collisions, a job hecompared to "troubleshooting 120,000 stereo systems."

Now, using those detectors, "we look for trends in what happenedduring the collision to learn what the quark-gluon plasma is like," hesaid.

"We have been trying to melt neutrons and protons, the buildingblocks of atomic nuclei, into their constituent quarks and gluons,"Cebra said. "We needed a lot of heat, pressure and energy, alllocalized in a small space."

The scientists produced the right conditions with head-on collisionsbetween the nuclei of gold atoms. The resulting quark-gluon plasmalasted an extremely short time -- less than 10-20 seconds, Cebra said.But the collision left tracings that the scientists could measure.

"Our work is like accident reconstruction," Cebra said. "We seefragments coming out of a collision, and we construct that informationback to very small points."

Quark-gluon plasma was expected to behave like a gas, but the datashows a more liquid-like substance. The plasma is less compressiblethan expected, which means that it may be able to support the cores ofvery dense stars.

"If a neutron star gets large and dense enough, it may go through aquark phase, or it may just collapse into a black hole," Cebra said."To support a quark star, the quark-gluon plasma would need rigidity.We now expect there to be quark stars, but they will be hard to study.If they exist, they're semi-infinitely far away."

The project is led by Brookhaven National Laboratory and LawrenceBerkeley National Laboratory, with collaborators at 52 institutionsworldwide. The work was done in Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy IonCollider (RHIC).


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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by University of California - Davis. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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University of California - Davis. "Detecting The Traces Of Mystery Matter." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 August 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050730093720.htm>.
University of California - Davis. (2005, August 4). Detecting The Traces Of Mystery Matter. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050730093720.htm
University of California - Davis. "Detecting The Traces Of Mystery Matter." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/07/050730093720.htm (accessed August 1, 2015).

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