Parity-Violating Elastic Electron Nucleon Scattering: Measurement of the Strange Quark Content of the Nucleon and Towards a Measurement of the Weak Charge of the Proton
The experiments discussed in this thesis exploit parity violation in elastic electron proton scattering in order to measure properties of the nucleon. Both experiments make use of the high quality, highly polarized electron beam available at Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. Qweak will measure the weak mixing angle, sin²θW, via a measurement of the weak charge of the proton, at a four-momentum transfer, Q² ~ 0.026 GeV²/c². The precision of this measurement gives Qweak access to new physics at the scale of 2.3 TeV, making it a test of the standard model. The G⁰ experimental program provides the fully separated contributions of the strange quark to the charge and magnetization distributions of the nucleon at two different values of four-momentum transfer, Q² ~ 0.22 and 0.63 GeV²/c². The measurement of the strange quark content of the proton in the G⁰ experimental program and other parity-violating electron scattering experiments provides a measurement of the hadronic contribution to the asymmetry in Qweak.
In addition, G⁰ was able to measure the parity-conserving beam normal single spin asymmetries that provide a measurement of the imaginary part of two photon exchange. The measurement of this asymmetry is necessary to understand the systematic contribution to measurements of parity-violating asymmetries, but it is also an important physics result. Recent theoretical work has shown that higher order radiative effects, such as two photon exchange, may be able to explain discrepancies between experiments which measure the ratio of the electric and magnetic form factors of the proton. The measurement of the transverse or beam normal single spin asymmetries provides a benchmark for theories that estimate the size of radiative corrections that are important for precision electroweak scattering experiments such as those described in this thesis. The results of the measurement of the transverse asymmetries at backward angles in G⁰ are presented at the two values of Q² ~ 0.22 and 0.63 GeV²/c² for hydrogen. Results for deuterium, which can provide the first measurements of the beam normal single spin asymmetries on the neutron, are also presented.