But some theories predict more than one Higgs boson. And it's possible an unpredicted Higgs wannabe could display some of the predicted properties, a discovery that would drive theorists back to their white boards.
"One of the most exciting aspects of this observation is that the road remains open for a vast range of 'look-alike' alternatives, where any deviation from the Standard Model would point the way to the existence of other new particles or forces of nature," said Harvey Newman, a physicist at the California Institute of Technology in a prepared statement.
However, key pieces of information that would help distinguish among the possibilities are either missing or incomplete, the researchers acknowledge.
Whatever the outcome, it's clear that the researchers involved and the theorists who predicted the existence of the Higgs bosons in the mid-1960s have entered Nobel Prize territory, to say nothing of new frontiers for exploring the nature of the universe.
"We're reaching into the fabric of the universe at a level we've never [reached] before," says Joe Icandela, a physicist at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the spokesman for one of the two major experiments hunting for the Higgs boson at CERN. "This is not like other ordinary particles. It's a key to the structure of the universe."
If the discovery the teams announced turn out to be the standard-model Higgs, it means "we've completed one part of the story, and we're on the frontier now."