They have been waiting for this moment for 27-months it is a breathless, anxious wait as scientists scan screens searching for the smallest of signals.
Last week CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) started providing new physics data after a two year shutdown for improvements.
The LHC is now initiating collisions at a record energy of 13 Teraelectron-Volts (13TeV), the highest collision energy reached in the history of physics.
Scientists believe this will open a new scientific chapter and more importantly a deeper understanding of our universe.
The team is delighted.
Rolf Heuer is the outgoing director general at CERN: “I think we are living a fantastic moment, a great moment collision at 13 TeV for physics.”
The team are searching for the smallest building blocks of matter as well as explaining existing phenomena such as dark matter, an invisible form of matter that makes up 27 percent of the entire mass of the universe.
At last researchers now know that the Large Hadron Collider is ready for this unprecedented challenge.
Sergio Bertolucci, the director for research and computing uses a naval analogy to explain the magnitude of the research: “The best ship in the world. The most powerful ship in the world. The best crew in the world. And now we are ready to go for the next exploration.”
By smashing particles at nearly the speed of light in the 27-kilometer-long accelerator (located 100 metres below the CERN) it’s possible to recreate a scenario close to the conditions that existed in the very first seconds after the Big Bang, allowing physicists to probe the origin of the cosmos.
The LHC was turned off in early 2013 in order to prepare the machine to work at a much higher energy and intensity.
The Large Hadron Collider can now smash around a billion pairs of protons together every second, twice its previous rate.
In 2012 the LHC detected the Higgs Boson, also known as the “God particle” the last missing piece in the Standard Model, the predominant theory of particle physics since the 1970s.
The discovery yielded two Nobel prizes in 2013 to professors Peter Higgs and Francois Englert.
The latsest advancements have spread optimism among researchers at CERN
Fabiola Gianotti is the incoming director general at CERN:“It’s also of course an important starting point, because this higher energy will allow us to address the many exciting outstanding questions in particle physics”
Rob McPherson, ATLAS experiment spokesperson explains what the team will be looking for over the next few years:“The new particle searches that we are going to be doing, later this year and the next two years of runs, I really hope we will see a signature that has a significant missing energy, which is the sign, of dark matter particles being produced in the LHC, perhaps that ties into the astronomical measurements of the missing mass, missing matter in the universe, that we don’t quite understand.”
To get an answer to the mysteries of our universe will take many more years of data collection and analysis.
But one thing is certain for the scientists of CERN, by studying the infinitely small they will finally be able to get a better understanding of the infinitely large.