Instanton - A Window into Physics of M5-branes

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Instantons and W-bosons in 5d N=2 Yang-Mills theory arise from a circle compactification of the 6d (2,0) theory as Kaluza-Klein modes and winding self-dual strings, respectively. We study an index which counts BPS instantons with electric charges in Coulomb and symmetric phases. We first prove the existence of unique threshold bound state of U(1) instantons for any instanton number. By studying SU(N) self-dual strings in the Coulomb phase, we find novel momentum-carrying degrees on the worldsheet. The total number of these degrees equals the anomaly coefficient of SU(N) (2,0) theory. We finally propose that our index can be used to study the symmetric phase of this theory, and provide an interpretation as the superconformal index of the sigma model on instanton moduli space.