Direct observation of the dead-cone effect in QCD

In particle collider experiments, elementary particle interactions with large momentum transfer produce quarks and gluons (known as partons) whose evolution is governed by the strong force, as described by the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). These partons subsequently emit further partons in a process that can be described as a parton shower which culminates in the formation of detectable hadrons. Studying the pattern of the parton shower is one of the key experimental tools for testing QCD. This pattern is expected to depend on the mass of the initiating parton, through a phenomenon known as the dead-cone effect, which predicts a suppression of the gluon spectrum emitted by a heavy quark of mass $m_{\rm{Q}}$ and energy $E$, within a cone of angular size $m_{\rm{Q}}$/$E$ around the emitter. Previously, a direct observation of the dead-cone effect in QCD had not been possible, owing to the challenge of reconstructing the cascading quarks and gluons from the experimentally accessible hadrons. We report the direct observation of the QCD dead cone by using new iterative declustering techniques to reconstruct the parton shower of charm quarks. This result confirms a fundamental feature of QCD. Furthermore, the measurement of a dead-cone angle constitutes a direct experimental observation of the non-zero mass of the charm quark, which is a fundamental constant in the standard model of particle physics.


Nature 605 (2022) 440–446
HEP Data
e-Print: arXiv:2106.05713 | PDF | inSPIRE
Figure group

Figure 1

Reconstruction of the showering quark. A sketch detailing the reconstruction of the showering charm quark, using iterative declustering, is presented. The top panels show the initial reclustering procedure with the C/A algorithm, in which the particles separated by the smallest angles are brought together first. Once the reclustering is complete, the declustering procedure is carried out by unwinding the reclustering history. Each splitting node is numbered according to the declustering step in which it is reconstructed. With each splitting, the charm-quark energy, $E_{\rm{Radiator,n}}$, is reduced and the gluon is emitted at a smaller angle, $\theta_{\rm{n}}$, with respect to previous emissions. The mass of the heavy quark, $m_{\rm{Q}}$, remains constant throughout the showering process. At each splitting, gluon emissions are suppressed in the dead-cone region (shown by a red cone for the last splitting), which increases in angle as the quark energy decreases throughout the shower.

Figure 2

Ratios of splitting angle probability distributions. The ratios of the splitting-angle probability distributions for D$^{0}$-meson tagged jets to inclusive jets, $R(\theta)$, measured in proton--proton collisions at $\sqrt{s}=13$ TeV, are shown for $5 < E_{\rm{Radiator}} < 10$ GeV (left panel), $10 < E_{\rm{Radiator}} < 20$ GeV (middle panel) and $20 < E_{\rm{Radiator}} < 35$ GeV (right panel). The data are compared with PYTHIA v.8 and SHERPA simulations, including the no dead-cone limit given by the ratio of the angular distributions for light-quark jets (LQ) to inclusive jets. The pink shaded areas correspond to the angles within which emissions are suppressed by the dead-cone effect, assuming a charm-quark mass of $1.275$ GeV/$\it{c}^{2}$.