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Meet the pentaquark, the Large Hadron Collider's newest discovery

Scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, say that they have detected an elusive subatomic particle first proposed in the 1960s.

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    This 2007 photo show the Large Hadron Collider in its tunnel at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.
    Martial Trezzini/Keystone/AP/File
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A new kind of subatomic particle called the pentaquark has been detected for the first time, the European Organization for Nuclear Research said Tuesday.

The lab, known by its French acronym CERN, said the findings were made by a team of scientists working on one of the four experiments at its Large Hadron Collider. Their results have been submitted to the journal Physical Review Letters.

The existence of pentaquarks was first proposed in the 1960s by American physicists Murray Gell-Mann and Georg Zweig. Gell-Mann, who coined the term "quark," received the Nobel Prize in 1969.

Guy Wilkinson, a spokesman for the LHCb experiment team, said studying pentaquarks may help scientists to better understand "how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we're all made, is constituted."

"This seems to be very significant observation,"said Anton Andronic, a physicist based at the Helmholtz Center for Heavy Ion Research in Darmstadt, Germany, who wasn't involved in the LHCb experiment. "But like any discovery it will have to be confirmed by an independent measurement."

Previous claims to the detection of pentaquarks have been refuted.

The discovery, if verified, would be the second major find at the Large Hadron Collider, which is used by physicists from around the world. The collider was instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that had long been theorized but never confirmed until 2013.

The collider is housed in a 27-kilometer (16.8-mile) tunnel beneath the Swiss-French border near Geneva. It was recently given a $150 million upgrade that allows atoms to be smashed together with even greater force.

CERN likened previous attempts to prove the existence of pentaquarks to looking for silhouettes in the dark, "whereas LHCb conducted the search with the lights on, and from all angles."

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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