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Fermilab | Batavia, IL | USA

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Fermilab hot on trail of Higgs boson with LHC, Tevatron

Real CMS proton-proton collision events in which 4 high energy electrons (green lines and red towers) are observed. The event shows characteristics expected from the decay of a Higgs boson but is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes. Courtesy: CMS

Today physicists at CERN on the CMS and ATLAS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider announced an update on their search for the Higgs boson. That may make you wonder ( I hope) what is Fermilab’s role in this. Well, glad you asked.

Fermilab supports the 1,000 US LHC scientists and engineers by providing office and meeting space as well as the Remote Operation Center. Fermilab helped design the CMS detector, a portion of the LHC accelerator and is working on upgrades for both. About one-third of the members of each of the Tevatron’s experiments, CDF and DZero, are also members of the LHC experiments.

That means that a good portion of the LHC researchers are also looking for the Higgs boson with the Tevatron.  Because the Tevatron and LHC accelerators collide different pairs of particles, the dominant way in which the experiments search for the Higgs at the two accelerators is different. Thus the two machines offer a complimentary search strategy.

If the Higgs exists and acts the way theorists expect, it is crucial to observe it in both types of decay patterns. Watch this video to learn how physicists search for the Higgs boson. These types of investigations might lead to the identification of new and unexpected physics.

Scientists from the CDF and DZero collaborations at Fermilab continue to analyze data collected before the September shutdown of the Tevatron in the search for the Higgs boson.

The two collaborations will announce their latest results for the Higgs boson search at an international particle physics conference in March 2012. This new updated analysis will have 20 to 40 percent more data than the July 2011 results as well as further improvements in analysis methods.

The Higgs particle is the last not-yet-observed piece of the theoretical framework known as the Standard Model of particles and forces. Watch this video to learn The nature of the Higgs boson and how it works. According to the Standard Model, the Higgs boson explains why some particles have mass and others do not. Higgs most likely has a mass between 114-137 GeV/c2, about 100 times the mass of a proton. This predicted mass range is based on stringent constraints established by earlier measurements made by Tevatron and other accelerators around the world, and confirmed by the searches of LHC experiments presented so far in 2011. This mass range is well within reach of the Tevatron Collider.

The Tevatron experiments already have demonstrated that they have the ability to ferret out the Higgs-decay pattern by applying well-established techniques used to search for the Higgs boson to observing extremely rare but firmly expected physics signature. This signature consists of pairs of heavy bosons (WW or WZ) that decay into a pair of b quarks, a process that closely mimics the main signature that the Tevatron experiments use to search for the Higgs particle, i.e. Higgs decaying to a pair of b quarks, which has by far the largest probability to happen in this mass range. Thus, if a Standard Model Higgs exists, the Tevatron experiments will see it.

If the Standard Model Higgs particle does not exist, Fermilab’s Tevatron experiments are on track to rule it out this winter. CDF and DZero experiments have excluded the existence of a Higgs particle in the 100-108 and the 156-177 GeV/c2 mass ranges and will have sufficient analysis sensitivity to rule out this winter the mass region between.

While today’s announcement shows the progress that the LHC experiments have made in the last few months, all eyes will be on the Tevatron and on the LHC in March 2012 to see what they have to say about the elusive Higgs Boson.

– Tona Kunz

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