Scientists believe that quark-gluon plasma filled the entire Universe during the first few microseconds after the Big Bang when the Universe was still too hot for particles to come together to make atoms.
The PHENIX team used the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory to recreate that matter.
In a series of tests, the physicists smashed packets of small projectiles in different combinations (single protons, two-particle deuterons, and three-particle helium-3 nuclei) into much bigger gold nuclei.
“RHIC is the only accelerator in the world where we can perform such a tightly controlled experiment, colliding particles made of one, two, and three components with the same larger nucleus, gold, all at the same energy,” said PHENIX team member Professor Jamie Nagle, a researcher at the University of Colorado, Boulder.
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