800 billion Celsius: the laboratory reproduced the first microseconds after the Big Bang

UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Physicists experimentally reproduced and studied the state of matter, characteristic of the first microseconds of the life of the Universe, and today arising from collisions of neutron stars.

The achievement is described in a scientific article published in the journal Nature by the HADES collaboration .

When about ten microseconds have passed since the Big Bang, the temperature reached hundreds of billions of degrees Celsius. Under such conditions, protons and neutrons (particles now constituting atomic nuclei) cannot exist. Instead, there is a peculiar “mess” of their “building blocks” – quarks and gluons.

A substance in this state is called quantum chromodynamic matter, or QCD matter . Quantum chromodynamics is the science of strong interaction, that is, the interaction of quarks and particles composed of quarks, of which gluons are carriers and participants.

The study of such a substance sheds light not only on the history of the birth of the Universe and the nature of cosmic cataclysms such as collisions of neutron stars , but also on the deep structure of matter. But getting such matter in an experiment is extremely difficult. Even in the center of a thermonuclear explosion, the temperature is several orders of magnitude lower.

The authors used the GSI / FAIR accelerator complex at the Institute of Heavy Ions in Germany. The accelerator accelerated the nuclei of atoms of heavy elements (for example, gold) and pushed them at light speeds. The temperature in such a collision reached 800 billion degrees Celsius, and the nuclei turned into QCD matter. Scientists analyzed its radiation using a HADES spectrometer.

“We studied the electromagnetic radiation generated by the” fireballs “produced by the collision,” Joachim Stroth, a HADES spokeswoman , quoted as saying. “This radiation can tell us a lot about the properties of [their] constituents. However, it’s difficult measurement, since the “fireballs” live a very short time: 10 -22 seconds, and the radiation is rarely emitted.”

QCD matter emitted virtual photons that immediately turned into pairs of electrons and positrons. Such pairs, mutually annihilating, already emitted real photons, that is, electromagnetic radiation. His characteristics were studied by physicists.

According to the measurement results, the density of the formed matter was several times higher than the density of the atomic nucleus (and this, by the way, is about one hundred billion tons in a cubic centimeter).

“We found that under such conditions, the building blocks of matter change significantly,” says Strot.

In other words, quarks and gluons in QCD matter behave differently than in atomic nuclei. But scientists have found similarities with the properties of matter formed during the collision of neutron stars, recently studied by astrophysicists .


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