Tau particles

The tau (τ), also called the tau lepton, tau particle, or tauon, is an elementary particle similar to the electron, with negative electric charge and a spin of 1/2

 Together with the electrons,  muons, and the three neutrinos, it is a lepton. Like all elementary particles with half-integer spin, the tau has a corresponding antiparticle of opposite charge but equal mass and spin, which in the tau's case is the antitau (also called the positive tau). Tau particles are denoted by 

τ−  and the antitau by  τ+

Tau leptons have a lifetime of 2.9×10−13 s and a mass of 1776.82 MeV/c2 (compared to 105.7 MeV/c2 for muons and 0.511 MeV/c2 for electrons). Since their interactions are very similar to those of the electron, a tau can be thought of as a much heavier version of the electron. Because of their greater mass, tau particles do not emit as much bremsstrahlung radiation as electrons; consequently they are potentially highly penetrating, much more so than electrons.

Because of their short lifetime, the range of the tau is mainly set by their decay length, which is too small for bremsstrahlung to be noticeable. Their penetrating power appears only at ultra-high velocity / ultra-high energy (above PeV energies), when time dilation extends their path-length. 

As with the case of the other charged leptons, the tau has an associated tau neutrino, denoted by  ν τ.

Tau decay is probably the most interesting feature of this particle

Feynman diagram of the common decays of the tau by emission of an off-shell W boson. image: wikipedia


The tau is the only lepton that can decay into hadrons – the other leptons do not have the necessary mass. Like the other decay modes of the tau, the hadronic decay is through the weak interaction.