Back in 2016, an antineutrino collided with an electron somewhere in the ice of Antarctica at nearly the speed of light. It took five years for scientists to confirm the event using the most remote particle detector on Earth, the buried IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
Now, the researchers are saying that the particle collision shower provided evidence of a long-suspected but never-before-proven or seen event known as "Glashow resonance." The event is named after the physicist Sheldon Lee Glashow who in 1960 predicted that when a high-energy antineutrino collided with an electron it would produce a short-lived particle known as a W boson.
The extremely rare boson provides confirmation for the Standard Model for particle physics. But in order for it to occur, the colliding neutrino is required to carry far more energy than any particle accelerator can produce: precisely 6.3 petaelectronvolts (PeV). This amounts to about 450 times the maximum energy that the Large Hadron Collider in CERN can generate.
Taking into account the huge energy required, researchers were certain that they could never spot Glashow's resonance using only human tools. However, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory was able to detect a characteristic shower of particles that researchers now presume came from a decaying W boson.
The W boson in collaboration with the Z boson is thought to be responsible for the weak force. The researchers are still unsure as to what led to the decaying W boson but they do state that witnessing more such events could lead them to better understand these forces.
Although the collision was spotted all the way back in 2016, the paper describing it and its effects was only published in the journal Nature in March of 2021. This goes to show how much work goes into understanding these phenomenal forces of nature.
Disclaimer: A previous version of this article mistakenly attributed "Glashow resonance" to Stephen Glashow while it should have been Sheldon Lee Glashow. Interesting Engineering regrets the error.