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The first proof of a peculiar Higgs boson decay has been spotted by physicists, extending our knowledge of the mysterious quantum universe.
Scientists at CERN's Massive Hadron Collider in Switzerland received a Nobel Prize in Physics in 2012 with a landmark finding: the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle predicted about 50 years ago by the Standard Model of Physics, was observed. The Higgs boson does not last long, decaying rapidly into smaller particles, like two photons (light particles).
Now , researchers using ATLAS and CMS have found evidence for an unusual decay of the Higgs boson in which the subatomic particle, a type of elementary particle that can be charged or neutral, decays into one photon and two leptons. (Two examples of charged leptons are electrons and muons, a related type of subatomic particle.) In particular, they find evidence that either a photon and a pair of electrons, or a photon and a pair of muons with opposite charges, would decay into the Higgs boson.
Using the Standard Model, scientists are able to determine the various elementary particles through which the Higgs boson will decay, with two photons being a reasonably 'normal' decay. They can often predict how much the Higgs boson decays into numerous particle configurations, and decaying into a photon and two leptons is especially unusual for the Higgs boson.
The Higgs boson easily transforms into one photon in this form of decay, after its uber-short life, and what scientists term a "virtual photon." The "virtual photon," also known as a "off-shell photon" then turns into something like, in this situation, two leptons instantly. James Beacham, a particle physicist with the ATLAS experiment at the LHC, told Space.com that this' simulated photon' has a very small non-zero mass, while normal photons are completely massless.