Scientists Just Looked Inside a Quantum Matter Fireball
The HADES machine is creating quantum matter fireballs with temperatures up to 800 billion degrees Celsius, in an effort to study quarks.
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HADES, or the High Acceptance DiElectron Spectrometer, is an internationally collaborative piece of equipment located in Germany. HADES is used by scientists all over the world to study matter as it might exist in some of the most intense events in the cosmos, like the merging of neutron stars.
And it’s getting hot enough in HADES to create and analyze a fireball of quantum matter
So the HADES team decided to pursue some answers with a physical experiment. And by physical experiment we mean the team smashed gold atoms into a gold target at nearly the speed of light, creating a fireball of quark matter.
After its initial creation, the quantum fireball starts to shed particles called rho mesons, which are made of a quark and an antiquark. These rho mesons decay into ‘virtual’ photons, which then further decay into electron-positron pairs.
HADES measured the electron-positron pairs that were left at the end of the experiment and researchers gained a brand new understanding into the behavior of the quark matter fireball itself. The measurements indicated that the quark matter fireball could reach really, really hot temperatures, like 800 billion degrees celsius level hot.
And the density was no joke either.
Find out more about the first experiment to measure what the behavior and state of quark matter would be in an interaction like a neutron star collision on this episode of Elements.
Physicists Peer Inside a Fireball of Quantum Matter
“For decades, experimentalists have used powerful colliders to crush gold and other atoms so tightly that the elementary particles inside their protons and neutrons, called quarks, start to tug on their new neighbors or (in other cases) fly free altogether. But because these phases of so-called “quark matter” are impenetrable to most particles, researchers have studied only their aftermath.”
“At that time, more than 13 billion years ago, there were no protons and neutrons—just a sea of “free” quarks and gluons, fundamental particles whose interactions are governed by nature’s strongest force and described by the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD).”
Measuring temperatures similar to those occurring in star collisions in the lab
“Their study, outlined in a paper published in Nature Physics, has led to the observation of temperatures of approximately 800 billion degrees Celsius, which are comparable to those occurring during star collisions.”