Towards a resolution of the proton form factor problem: new electron and positron scattering data

Phys Rev Lett. 2015 Feb 13;114(6):062003. doi: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.062003. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


There is a significant discrepancy between the values of the proton electric form factor, G(E)(p), extracted using unpolarized and polarized electron scattering. Calculations predict that small two-photon exchange (TPE) contributions can significantly affect the extraction of G(E)(p) from the unpolarized electron-proton cross sections. We determined the TPE contribution by measuring the ratio of positron-proton to electron-proton elastic scattering cross sections using a simultaneous, tertiary electron-positron beam incident on a liquid hydrogen target and detecting the scattered particles in the Jefferson Lab CLAS detector. This novel technique allowed us to cover a wide range in virtual photon polarization (ϵ) and momentum transfer (Q(2)) simultaneously, as well as to cancel luminosity-related systematic errors. The cross section ratio increases with decreasing ϵ at Q(2)=1.45 GeV(2). This measurement is consistent with the size of the form factor discrepancy at Q(2)≈1.75 GeV(2) and with hadronic calculations including nucleon and Δ intermediate states, which have been shown to resolve the discrepancy up to 2-3 GeV(2).