CERN researchers search for mysterious 'ghost' particles. What are they and why are they important to understanding the Universe

Some physicists have long suspected that mysterious “ghost” particles in the world around us could give us significant insight into the true nature of the Universe.

CERN has approved an experiment to find evidence of the existence of these particles PHOTO CERN

Now scientists think they have found a way to prove whether they exist or not. CERN, the European Center for Particle Research, has approved an experiment designed to find evidence of the existence of these particles, writes the BBC.

The new instrument will be a thousand times more sensitive to such particles than previous devices and will hit the particles against a hard surface to detect them, rather than bumping into each other, as happens in CERN's main device, The Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

But what are these ghost particles and why is a new approach needed to detect them?

The current theory of particle physics is called the Standard Model, and it states that everything in the Universe is made up of a family of 17 particles – well-known ones like the electron and the Higgs boson, as well as lesser-known ones like the quark, tau neutrino and gluon .

Some are mixed in various combinations to form the larger, yet incredibly small particles that make up the world around us and the stars and galaxies we see in space, while others are involved in the forces of nature.

But there's a problem: Astronomers have observed things in the sky—the way galaxies move, for example—that strongly suggest that everything we can observe is only five percent of the Universe.

The rest of the Universe could be made up of the particles “the ghost” or “hidden“. These are believed to be ghost particles almost identical to the 17 of the Standard Model. If they exist, they are extremely difficult to detect because they rarely interact with the world as we know it.

Like ghosts, they pass through everything, undetectable by any terrestrial device.

But the theory is that ghost particles can decay into Standard Model particles, and these can be picked up by detectors.

So instead of bumping particles into each other, as most current experiments do, the Search for Hidden Particles (SHiP) will bump them into a big block of material.

This means that all particles are broken into smaller pieces.

The future Accelerator Circular will be available after 2040

The SHiP project is led by Professor Andrey Golutvin of Imperial College London, who said the experiment “marks a new era in the search for hidden particles”. “SHiP has the unique opportunity to solve many of the major problems of particle physics, and we have the prospect of discovering particles that have never been seen before“, he said.

The search for ghost particles requires specially adapted equipment. With normal experiments, using the Large Hadron Collider, for example, the new particles can be detected up to a meter from the collision. But ghost particles can remain invisible and travel several tens or even hundreds of meters before disintegrating and revealing themselves.

So the SHiP detectors are placed much further away.

The SHiP project will be built within CERN's existing facilities, according to physicist Claudia Ahdida. “We're going to use an existing cavern and infrastructure and parts that we're going to try to reuse as much as possible, and what we're going to have is a facilitation that will help us search for this hidden, never-before-seen sectorshe said.

SHiP will work alongside all the other experiments at CERN, the largest of which is the Large Hadron Accelerator, which has searched for the missing 95 percent of the Universe since it was completed in 2008 at a cost of 3.75 billion pounds.

So far, the accelerator has not found any non-Standard Model particles, and the plan is to build a machine three times larger and much more powerful.

The future Circular Accelerator has an estimated initial cost of £12 billion. Its estimated launch date is sometime in the mid-2040s, although it won't be at its full potential for hunting new particles until the 2070s.

In comparison, the SHiP experiment is scheduled to start searching for new particles in 2030 and will be around a hundred times cheaper, at around £100 million.

But the researchers say all approaches are needed to explore all possible options to find the particles that they say would lead to one of the biggest discoveries in physics yet.