Physicists Deliver the Most Precise Measurement of the Helium Nucleus Yet

Helium is a very important element, much more than just a way to make balloons float or to amplify our voice. It is the second most abundant and lightest element in the universe. Physicists have now announced a breakthrough in our understanding of this element: the most precise measure yet of its nucleus. International researchers have established that the radius of the helium nucleus is 1.67824 femtometers- or 1.67824×10-15 meters (5.506×10-15 feet). For you to compare, if the nucleus is the size of your thumbnail, then your actual thumbnail will be the size of Earth’s orbit. This new measure is 4.8 times more accurate than the previous estimate. Queries reported in nature.

The helium atom made up of a nucleus consisting of two neutrons surrounded by two protons and two electrons in its mass. Electrons have a negative electrical charge, while protons are positive. Neutrons have no electrical charge, but the key is to keep the protons from colliding with each other. Protons and neutrons made up of quarks and the quarks communicate through strong nuclear energy.

This will tell you that the particles in the nucleus simply do not remain stationary, and that the nucleus did not find a well-defined boundary. Its radius estimated by acting on the interaction between the nucleus and the negatively charged particles. In the latest experiment, researchers tweeted helium by switching electrons with moons. Moons have the same electrical charges as electrons, but they are 200 times larger.  This difference allowed researchers to make measurements that are more precise.

Senior author Aldo Antognini, from the Paul Scherrer Institute, said in a statement, “We do not work with ordinary atoms, but with external atoms where both electrons were replaced by a single muon. So with the help of muonic helium we can decide on the structure of the atomic nucleus and measure its properties.”

This same approach with muon was used a few years back to obtain a more precise measurement of the proton. This caused some contrast in the shape of the protons. The researchers thought it was just an experimental error in the old measurement, but they were open to the idea that it was probably an indication of a more complex physics. There is no disagreement on the measurement of helium – the latest number is a clear and simple improvement over previous estimates. It strengthens the results of protons, reducing the chances of it being a product of unknown physics.

Julian Krauth, first author of the study says, “Our measurement can be used in a variety of ways.” “The radius of the helium nucleus is an important touchstone for nuclear physics.” This work is a perfect experimental work for a variety of physical theories, ranging from theoretical models of atomic structures to refining our understanding of the powerful atomic energy of basic physics.