Friday 15 December 2017

Atomic collider back with bang after €135m refit

Workers examine the collider before it was restarted
Workers examine the collider before it was restarted

Alan Martin

The world's biggest particle accelerator is back in action after a two-year shutdown and €135m upgrade, embarking on a new mission that scientists hope could give them a look into the unseen dark universe.

Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, or CERN, shot two particle beams yesterday through the Large Hadron Collider's 27km tunnel, beneath the Swiss-French border near Geneva. The collider was instrumental in the discovery of the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that had long been theorised but never confirmed until 2013.

Scientists hope to see all sorts of new physics, including a first ever glimpse of dark matter, during the collider's second three-year run. Still, it will be a while yet before the accelerator is working at full speed and particle crashes start.

"It will take us about six weeks to two months to establish the first stable collisions for the experiments, because we have to commission all the instruments, all the systems one by one," said Joerg Wenninger, the accelerator's coordinator of operations.

Dark matter - and its cousin, dark energy - make up most of the universe, but scientists haven't been able to see them yet, so researchers are looking in high-energy crashes, in orbit in a special experiment on the international space station, and in a deep underground mine.

Irish Independent

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