- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 13, 2011

GENEVA (AP) - One of two research teams searching for an elusive sub-atomic particle believed to be a basic building block of the universe announced Tuesday that new data show it is more likely to be found in the lower energy ranges of the massive atom smasher being used to track it down.

The discovery _ expected to be confirmed later in the day by a second research team _ helps narrow the search for the Higgs boson, a theoretical particle that researchers hope can explain may mysteries of the universe.

British physicist Peter Higgs theorized the particle’s existence more than 40 years ago to explain why atoms, and everything else in the universe, have weight.

Both of the research teams are involved with CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research near Geneva. CERN oversees the $10-billion Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border, a 17-mile (27-kilometer) tunnel where high energy beams of protons are sent crashing into each other at incredible speeds.

Fabiola Gianotti, an Italian physicist with the team running what’s called the ATLAS experiment, said “the hottest region” is in lower energy ranges of the collider. She said there are indications of the Higgs’ existence and that with enough data it could be unambiguously discovered or ruled out next year.

Although it would be an enormous scientific breakthrough for the physics world if the Higgs boson was found, officials at CERN have ruled out making any such announcement this year.

Leaders of the second team, running what’s called the CMS experiment, were due to present their findings later Tuesday.