Scientists at Europe's CERN research center have found a new subatomic particle, a basic block of the universe, which appears to be the boson imagined and named half a century ago by theoretical physicist Peter Higgs.
Scientists hunted the subatomic Higgs particle that take them nearer to understanding how the Big Bang at the dawn of time gave rise to stars, planets and even life.
Physicists who have been trying hard to smashing particles together near light-speed at the CERN laboratory near Geneva, the missing piece of the fundamental theory of physics known as the Standard Model.
The world of science now awaits a mass of evidence big enough to be deemed a formal discovery. The secrecy surrounding that nearly 40 years of research have reached a climax.
Data harvested from CERN's Large Hadron Collider, the biggest particle accelerator in the world, could also shed light on the make-up of the poorly understood ''dark matter'' and "dark energy" that make up 96 percent of the universe.
CERN is planning to beam the announcement live around the world to a physics conference in Melbourne, Australia. Related events are planned in countries involved in the project, including Britain.
U.S. physicists said they had found the strongest evidence yet of the existence of the Higgs in a mass of data collected from the now-mothballed Tevatron particle accelerator, run by the Fermi National Accelerator Lab outside Chicago.
"It will be interesting to see how it lines up with CERN's results"
Some scientists working on the project have told Reuters they expect the unveiling of a formal discovery while others expect it to fall just short.
With the help of the thousands of physicists involved, divided into two separate teams called Atlas and CMS.
The Higgs particle, although crucial for understanding how the universe was formed, remains theoretical. It is the last undiscovered piece of the Standard Model that describes the fundamental make-up of the universe. The model is for physicists what the theory of evolution is for biologists.
Scientists say the existence of dark matter and dark energy suggests the Standard Model, if validated by a Higgs discovery.
"The Standard Model has a few major flaws; the Higgs boson discovery would only fix one of them,"
"We still have no clue regarding what makes 96 percent of the content of the universe. This should keep us physicists busy for a few more decades."
Higgs, now 83, from Edinburgh University was among six theorists who in the early 1960s proposed the existence of a mechanism by which matter in the universe gained mass. Higgs himself argued that if there were an invisible field responsible for the process, it must be made up of particles.
"I had no expectation that I would still be alive when it happened,"
Higgs himself called it a great achievement for CERN's collider. Without it, his ideas would remain just a paper theory and he conceded that he personally was never cut out for laboratory experimentation:
"I certainly did some lab work as a schoolboy in Bristol," he told Reuters. "I was incompetent."