It’s the first time they’ve seen the Higgs boson – the particle thought to give mass to other elementary particles – break up into a pair of muons, according to research shared this week at a conference on high energy physics. This finding further strengthens the standard model of physics, which has long been challenged by new particle findings.
One of the best ways for physicists to study the Higgs boson is to watch how it dies. In general, they have seen it decay into relatively heavy particles, but muons are much lighter and interact less with the field emitted by the Higgs boson.
“[Our CERN team] is proud to have achieved this sensitivity to the decay of Higgs bosons into muons, and to show the first experimental evidence of this process,” said CERN spokesperson Roberto Carlin in a press release .
Muons are second-generation particles. While atoms are made up of first-generation particles like electrons, higher generations only exist in high-energy environments — like a particle physics lab — and break down quickly. This is the first time that scientists have seen the Higgs boson interact with second-generation particles.
“The Higgs boson also appears to interact with second-generation particles in line with Standard Model predictions, a result that will be refined with data we hope to collect in the next battery of tests,” Carlin said.