Exotic hadrons take centre stage in Guilin

30 October 2019
HADRON2019 participants
Pentaquark pushers HADRON 2019 took place in Guilin, China. Credit: HADRON2019

The 18th International Conference on Hadron Spectroscopy and Structure, HADRON2019, took place in Guilin, China, from 16 to 21 August, co-hosted by the Guangxi Normal University and the Institute of Theoretical Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The conference brought together more than 330 experimental and theoretical physicists from more than 20 countries to discuss topics ranging from meson and baryon spectroscopy to nucleon structure and hypernuclei. The central issue was exotic hadrons: the strongly interacting particles that deviate from the textbook definitions of mesons and baryons. Searches for exotic hadrons and studies of their properties have been a focus for many high-energy physics experiments, and many fascinating results have been reported since 2003 when the first particles of this sort were discovered: the hidden-charm X(3872) and the open-charm Ds*0 (2317) observed by Belle and BaBar, respectively. The most cited physics papers of Belle and BESIII and the second most cited of BaBar and LHCb are reports of the discoveries of exotic hadron candidates.

The conference began with a report on LHCb measurements of the doubly charmed Ξ++cc baryon, and the discovery of pentaquark particles called Pc. The higher statistics of the LHC Run-2 data have resolved the Pc(4450) reported by LHCb in 2015 into two narrower structures, Pc(4440) and Pc(4457). In addition, a third hidden-charm pentaquark, Pc(4312), with a smaller mass, was observed for the first time. These Pc structures are very likely exotic baryons consisting of at least five quarks, including a charm quark–antiquark pair. Many theorists believe that these pentaquarks can be described as hadronic molecules of a charmed meson and a charmed baryon, analogous to the deuteron, which is a bound state of a neutron and a proton. A series of parallel talks described theoretical predictions that will be useful in motivating further measurements, such as searches for the decay to a charmed baryon and a charmed meson, and searches for the various new pentaquarks predicted by theoretical models.

The X(3872) discovered by Belle 16 years ago is still the subject of intensive investigations

Illustrating the difficulty of understanding the inner structure of hadrons, the X(3872) discovered by Belle 16 years ago is still the subject of intensive investigations. Its mass is extremely close to the sum of the masses of two charmed mesons, D0 and D*0, and its decay width (< 1.2 MeV) is anomalously small for a hadron of such a mass. New results on its decays into lighter particles were reported by BESIII. Alongside proposals for precise measurements of its mass, width and polarisation at Belle-II, PANDA and the LHC experiments, a deeper understanding of the X(3872) may be just around the corner. A close collaboration between experimentalists and theorists is required, and this conference provided a valuable opportunity to exchange ideas. Interesting discussions will continue at the next HADRON conference, to be held in Mexico in 2021.


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