Moons shodow in muons.gif
The Moon's cosmic ray shadow, as seen in secondary muons generated by cosmic rays in the atmosphere, and detected 700 meters below ground, at the Soudan II detector
Composition Elementary particle
Statistics Fermionic
Generation Second
Interactions Gravity, Electromagnetic,
Symbol μ
Antiparticle Antimuon (μ+
Discovered Carl D. Anderson (1936)
Mass 105.65836668(38) MeV/c2
Mean lifetime 2.197034(21)×10−6 s[1]
Electric charge −1 e
Color charge None
Spin 12

The muon (pronounced /ˈmjuːɒn/; from the Greek letter mu (μ) used to represent it) is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with a unitary negative electric charge and a spin of ½. Together with the electron, the tau, and the three neutrinos, it is classified as a lepton. As is the case with other leptons, the muon is not believed to have any sub-structure at all (i.e., is not thought to be composed of any simpler particles).

The muon is an unstable subatomic particle with a mean lifetime of 2.2 µs. This comparatively long decay life time (the second longest known) is due to being mediated by the weak interaction. The only longer lifetime for an unstable subatomic particle is that for the free neutron, a baryon particle composed of quarks, which also decays via the weak force. All muons decay to three particles (an electron plus two neutrinos of different types), but the daughter particles are believed to originate newly in the decay.

Like all elementary particles, the muon has a corresponding antiparticle of opposite charge but equal mass and spin: the antimuon (also called a positive muon). Muons are denoted by μ
and antimuons by μ+
. Muons were previously called mu mesons, but are not classified as mesons by modern particle physicists (see History).

Muons have a mass of 105.7 MeV/c2, which is about 200 times the mass of an electron. Since the muon's interactions are very similar to those of the electron, a muon can be thought of as a much heavier version of the electron. Due to their greater mass, muons are not as sharply accelerated when they encounter electromagnetic fields, and do not emit as much bremsstrahlung radiation. This allows muons of a given energy to penetrate far more deeply into matter than electrons, since the deceleration of electrons and muons is primarily due to energy loss by the bremsstrahlung mechanism. As an example, so-called "secondary muons", generated by cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere, can penetrate to the Earth's surface, and even into deep mines.

Because muons have a very large mass and energy compared with the decay energy of radioactivity, they are never produced by radioactive decay. They are, however, produced in copious amounts in high-energy interactions in normal matter, such as occur during certain particle accelerator experiments with hadrons, and also naturally in cosmic ray interactions with matter. These interactions usually first produce pi mesons, which then most often decay to muons.

As with the case of the other charged leptons, the muon has an associated muon neutrino. Muon neutrinos are denoted by ν



Muons were discovered by Carl D. Anderson and Seth Neddermeyer at Caltech in 1936, while studying cosmic radiation. Anderson had noticed particles that curved differently from electrons and other known particles when passed through a magnetic field. They were negatively charged but curved less sharply than electrons, but more sharply than protons, for particles of the same velocity. It was assumed that the magnitude of their negative electric charge was equal to that of the electron, and so to account for the difference in curvature, it was supposed that their mass was greater than an electron but smaller than a proton. Thus Anderson initially called the new particle a mesotron, adopting the prefix meso- from the Greek word for "mid-". Shortly thereafter, additional particles of intermediate mass were discovered, and the more general term meson was adopted to refer to any such particle. To differentiate between different types of mesons, the mesotron was in 1947 renamed the mu meson (the Greek letter μ (mu) corresponds to m).

It was soon found that the mu meson significantly differed from other mesons in that they did not interact with the nuclear force. Also, the mu meson's decay products included a neutrino and an antineutrino, rather than just one or the other, as was observed with other mesons. Other mesons were eventually understood to be hadrons—that is, particles made of quarks—and thus subject to the nuclear force. In the quark model, a meson is composed of exactly two quarks (a quark and antiquark), unlike baryons, which are composed of three quarks. Mu mesons, however, were found to be fundamental particles (leptons) like electrons, with no quark structure. Thus, mu mesons were not mesons at all (in the new sense and use of the term meson), and so the term mu meson was abandoned, and replaced with the modern term muon.

Another particle (the pion, with which the muon was initially confused) had been predicted by theorist Hideki Yukawa:[2]

"It seems natural to modify the theory of Heisenberg and Fermi in the following way. The transition of a heavy particle from neutron state to proton state is not always accompanied by the emission of light particles. The transition is sometimes taken up by another heavy particle."

The existence of the muon was confirmed in 1937 by J. C. Street and E. C. Stevenson's cloud chamber experiment.[3] The discovery of the mu-meson muon as a simple "heavy electron" seemed so incongruous and surprising at the time, that Nobel laureate I. I. Rabi famously quipped, "Who ordered that?"

In the Rossi–Hall experiment (1941), muons were used to observe the time dilation (or alternately, length contraction) predicted by special relativity, for the first time.

Muon sources

Since the production of muons requires an available center of momentum frame energy of 105.7 MeV, neither ordinary radioactive decay events nor nuclear fission and fusion events (such as those occurring in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons) are energetic enough to produce muons. Only nuclear fission produces single-nuclear-event energies in this range, but do not produce muons as the production of a single muon would violate the conservation of quantum numbers (see under "muon decay" below).

On Earth, most naturally occurring muons are created by cosmic rays, which consist mostly of protons, many arriving from deep space at very high energy[4]

About 10,000 muons reach every square meter of the earth's surface a minute; these charged particles form as by-products of cosmic rays colliding with molecules in the upper atmosphere. Travelling at relativistic speeds, muons can penetrate tens of meters into rocks and other matter before attenuating as a result of absorption or deflection by other atoms.[5]

When a cosmic ray proton impacts atomic nuclei in the upper atmosphere, pions are created. These decay within a relatively short distance (meters) into muons (their preferred decay product), and neutrinos. The muons from these high energy cosmic rays generally continue in about the same direction as the original proton, at a velocity near the speed of light. Although their lifetime without relativistic effects would allow a half-survival distance of only about 0.66 km (660 meters) at most (as seen from Earth) the time dilation effect of special relativity (from the viewpoint of the Earth) allows cosmic ray secondary muons to survive the flight to the Earth's surface, since in the Earth frame, the muons have a longer half life due to their velocity. From the viewpoint (inertial frame) of the muon, on the other hand, it is the length contraction effect of special relativity which allows this penetration, since in the muon frame, its life time is unaffected, but the length contraction causes distances through the atmosphere and Earth to be far shorter than these distances in the Earth rest-frame. Both effects are equally valid ways of explaining the fast muon's unusual survival over distances.

Since muons are unusually penetrative of ordinary matter, like neutrinos, they are also detectable deep underground (700 meters at the Soudan II detector) and underwater, where they form a major part of the natural background ionizing radiation. Like cosmic rays, as noted, this secondary muon radiation is also directional.

The same nuclear reaction described above (i.e. hadron-hadron impacts to produce pion beams, which then quickly decay to muon beams over short distances) is used by particle physicists to produce muon beams, such as the beam used for the muon g − 2 experiment.[6]

Muon decay

The most common decay of the muon

Muons are unstable elementary particles and are heavier than electrons and neutrinos but lighter than all other matter particles. They decay via the weak interaction. Because lepton numbers must be conserved, one of the product neutrinos of muon decay must be a muon-type neutrino and the other an electron-type antineutrino (antimuon decay produces the corresponding antiparticles, as detailed below). Because charge must be conserved, one of the products of muon decay is always an electron of the same charge as the muon (a positron if it is a positive muon). Thus all muons decay to at least an electron, and two neutrinos. Sometimes, besides these necessary products, additional other particles that have a net charge and spin of zero (e.g., a pair of photons, or an electron-positron pair), are produced.

The dominant muon decay mode (sometimes called the Michel decay after Louis Michel) is the simplest possible: the muon decays to an electron, an electron-antineutrino, and a muon-neutrino. Antimuons, in mirror fashion, most often decay to the corresponding antiparticles: a positron, an electron-neutrino, and a muon-antineutrino. In formulaic terms, these two decays are:

\mu^-\to e^- + \bar\nu_e + \nu_\mu,~~~\mu^+\to e^+ + \nu_e + \bar\nu_\mu.

The mean lifetime of the (positive) muon is 2.197019±0.000021 µs.[7] The equality of the muon and anti-muon lifetimes has been established to better than one part in 104.

The tree-level muon decay width is

\Gamma=\frac{G_F^2 m_\mu^5}{192\pi^3}I\left(\frac{m_e^2}{m_\mu^2}\right),

where I(x) = 1 − 8x − 12x2ln x + 8x3x4 and  G_F^2 is the Fermi coupling constant.

The decay distributions of the electron in muon decays have been parameterised using the so-called Michel parameters. The values of these four parameters are predicted unambiguously in the Standard Model of particle physics, thus muon decays represent a good test of the space-time structure of the weak interaction. No deviation from the Standard Model predictions has yet been found.

Certain neutrino-less decay modes are kinematically allowed but forbidden in the Standard Model. Examples forbidden by lepton flavour conservation are:

\mu^-\to e^- + \gamma and \mu^-\to e^- + e^+ + e^-.

Observation of such decay modes would constitute clear evidence for theories beyond the Standard Model. Upper limits for the branching fractions of such decay modes were measured in many experiments starting more than 50 years ago. The current upper limit for the \mu^-\to e^- + \gamma branching fraction was measured 2011 in the MEG experiment and is 2.4 x 10−12 [8].

Muonic atoms

The muon was the first elementary particle discovered that does not appear in ordinary atoms. Negative muons can, however, form muonic atoms (also called mu-mesic atoms), by replacing an electron in ordinary atoms. Muonic hydrogen atoms are much smaller than typical hydrogen atoms because the much larger mass of the muon gives it a much smaller ground-state wavefunction than is observed for the electron. In multi-electron atoms, when only one of the electrons is replaced by a muon, the size of the atom continues to be determined by the other electrons, and the atomic size is nearly unchanged. However, in such cases the orbital of the muon continues to be smaller and far closer to the nucleus than the atomic orbitals of the electrons.

A positive muon, when stopped in ordinary matter, can also bind an electron and form an exotic atom known as muonium (Mu) atom, in which the muon acts as the nucleus. The positive muon, in this context, can be considered a pseudo-isotope of hydrogen with one ninth of the mass of the proton. Because the reduced mass of muonium, and hence its Bohr radius, is very close to that of hydrogen[clarification needed], this short-lived "atom" behaves chemically — to a first approximation — like hydrogen, deuterium and tritium.

Use in measurement of the proton charge radius

The recent culmination of a twelve year experiment investigating the proton's charge radius involved the use of muonic hydrogen. This form of hydrogen is composed of a muon orbiting a proton.[9] The Lamb shift in muonic hydrogen was measured by driving the muon from its 2s state up to an excited 2p state using a laser. The frequency of the photon required to induce this transition was revealed to be 50 terahertz which, according to present theories of quantum electrodynamics, yields a value of 0.84184 ± 0.00067 femtometres for the charge radius of the proton.[10]

Anomalous magnetic dipole moment

The anomalous magnetic dipole moment is the difference between the experimentally observed value of the magnetic dipole moment and the theoretical value predicted by the Dirac equation. The measurement and prediction of this value is very important in the precision tests of QED (quantum electrodynamics). The E821 experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) studied the precession of muon and anti-muon in a constant external magnetic field as they circulated in a confining storage ring. The E821 Experiment reported the following average value (from the July 2007 review by Particle Data Group)

a = \frac{g-2}{2} = 0.00116592080(54)(33)

where the first errors are statistical and the second systematic.

The difference between the g-factors of the muon and the electron is due to their difference in mass. Because of the muon's larger mass, contributions to the theoretical calculation of its anomalous magnetic dipole moment from Standard Model weak interactions and from contributions involving hadrons are important at the current level of precision, whereas these effects are not important for the electron. The muon's anomalous magnetic dipole moment is also sensitive to contributions from new physics beyond the Standard Model, such as supersymmetry. For this reason, the muon's anomalous magnetic moment is normally used as a probe for new physics beyond the Standard Model rather than as a test of QED.[11]

See also


  1. ^ K. Nakamura et al. (Particle Data Group), J. Phys. G 37, 075021 (2010), URL:
  2. ^ Yukaya Hideka, On the Interaction of Elementary Particles 1, Proceedings of the Physico-Mathematical Society of Japan (3) 17, 48, pp 139-148 (1935). (Read 17 November 1934)
  3. ^ New Evidence for the Existence of a Particle Intermediate Between the Proton and Electron", Phys. Rev. 52, 1003 (1937).
  4. ^ S. Carroll (2004). Spacetime and Geometry: An Introduction to General Relativity. Addison Wesly. p. 204
  5. ^ Mark Wolverton (September 2007). "Muons for Peace: New Way to Spot Hidden Nukes Gets Ready to Debut". Scientific American 297 (3): 26–28. 
  6. ^ "Physicists Announce Latest Muon g-2 Measurement" (Press release). Brookhaven National Laboratory. 30 July 2002. Retrieved 2009-11-14. 
  7. ^ MuLan Collaboration; Chitwood; Banks; Barnes; Battu; Carey; Cheekatmalla; Clayton et al. (2007). "Improved Measurement of the Positive Muon Lifetime and Determination of the Fermi Constant". Phys.Rev.Lett.99:032001,2007 99 (3). arXiv:0704.1981. Bibcode 2007PhRvL..99c2001C. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.99.032001. 
  8. ^ J. Adam et al. (MEG Collaboration) (2011). Physical Review Letters 107 (17): 171701-171805. arXiv:1107.5547. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.107.171801. 
  9. ^ TRIUMF Muonic Hydrogen collaboration. "A brief description of Muonic Hydrogen research". Retrieved 2010-11-7
  10. ^ Pohl, Randolf et al. "The Size of the Proton" Nature 466, 213-216 (8 July 2010)
  11. ^ Hagiwara, K; Martin, A; Nomura, D; Teubner, T (2007). "Improved predictions for g−2g−2 of the muon and αQED(MZ2)". Physics Letters B 649 (2-3): 173. arXiv:hep-ph/0611102. Bibcode 2007PhLB..649..173H. doi:10.1016/j.physletb.2007.04.012. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Muon — Propriétés générales Classification Fermion Composition Élémentaire Groupe Lepton Génération 2e Propriétés physiques Masse 105,66 MeV.c 2 (1,88×10 …   Wikipédia en Français

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  • muon — [ myɔ̃ ] n. m. • 1958; en angl. 1953; méson μ 1937; de mu et (électr)on ♦ Phys. Particule élémentaire à interactions faibles, de même charge (positive ou négative) que l électron. Le muon est un lepton. Adj. MUONIQUE . ● muon nom masculin (de mu… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Muon — Composición Partícula elemental Familia Fermión Grupo Leptón Generación Segunda …   Wikipedia Español

  • muon — o muón m. Fís. Partícula elemental inestable del grupo de los leptones, de carga igual a la del electrón. (Símb. μ) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • muón — muon o muón m. Fís. Partícula elemental inestable del grupo de los leptones, de carga igual a la del electrón. (Símb. μ) …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • múon — s. m. [Física] Partícula elementar da família dos léptons, com uma carga elétrica positiva ou negativa igual à do eletrão e cuja massa vale 207 vezes a do elétron (símbolo: μ). = MU • [Brasil] Plural: múones ou múons.   ‣ Etimologia: mu +… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • muon — [myo͞o′än΄] n. [ MU + (MES)ON] Particle Physics an unstable, negatively charged lepton with a mass of 105.7 MeV, c. 207 times that of an electron, and a mean lifetime of 2.2×10 6 second: it decays into an electron, a neutrino, and an antineutrino …   English World dictionary

  • Muón — ► sustantivo masculino FÍSICA Partícula elemental, con carga positiva o negativa, cuya masa es de doscientas ocho veces la del electrón. * * * muon m. Colobo (*mono catirrino) de Guinea Ecuatorial. * * * muon o muón. m. Fís. Partícula elemental… …   Enciclopedia Universal

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