CERN’s Large Hadron Collider lights up for the third time to uncover more secrets of the cosmos

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider lights up for the third time to uncover more secrets of the cosmos

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Ten years ago, the Large Hadron Collider, Earth’s most powerful particle accelerator, proved the existence of a subatomic particle called the Higgs boson, believed to be a fundamental building block of the universe dating back to the big bang billions of years ago.

Now physicists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on the Franco-Swiss border are restarting the collider with the aim of better understanding the Higgs boson, other subatomic particles and the mysteries of dark matter – an invisible and elusive substance that cannot be seen because it does not absorb, reflect or emit light.

Made up of a ring 27 kilometers (16.7 miles) in circumference, the Large Hadron Collider – located deep under the Alps – is made of superconducting magnets cooled to -271.3 ° C (-456 F), this which is colder than outer space. It works by smashing tiny particles together to allow scientists to observe them and see what’s inside.

Beams of protons have already been flowing through the accelerator complex since April, when it was put into operation after three years of maintenance and upgrades.

On Tuesday, CERN scientists will begin collecting data for their experiments, and the Large Hadron Collider will operate around the clock for nearly four years. This is the third time for the massive machine, with greater precision and discovery potential than ever before thanks to improved reading and data selection systems, as well as new detection systems and computing infrastructure.

“When we do research, we hope to find something unexpected, a surprise. That would be the best result. But of course the answer is in the hands of nature, and it depends on how nature answers open questions of fundamental physics,” said Fabiola Gianotti, Director General of CERN, in a video posted on the website. from CERN.

“We seek answers to questions related to dark matter, why the Higgs boson is so light, and many other open questions.”

Physicists Francois Englert and Peter Higgs first theorized the existence of the Higgs boson in the 1960s. The Standard Model of Physics lays out the basics of how elementary particles and forces interact in the universe. But the theory had failed to explain how the particles actually get their mass. Particles, or pieces of matter, vary in size and can be larger or smaller than atoms. Electrons, protons, and neutrons, for example, are the subatomic particles that make up an atom. The scientists now believe that the Higgs boson is the particle that gives all matter its mass.

In 2013, a year after the particle was discovered, Englert and Higgs won a Nobel Prize for their foresighted prediction. But there are still many unknowns about the Higgs boson, and uncovering its secrets could help scientists understand the universe at its smallest scale and some of the greatest mysteries of the cosmos.

The Large Hadron Collider, which opened in 2008, is the only place in the world where the Higgs boson can be produced and studied in detail. Round three kicked off successfully at 10:47 a.m. ET on Tuesday.

In the latest series of experiments, CERN scientists will study the properties of matter under extreme temperatures and densities, and also look for explanations of dark matter and other new phenomena, either by direct searches or – indirectly – by precise measurements of the properties of known particles.

“Although all the results obtained so far are consistent with the Standard Model, there is still a lot of room for new phenomena beyond what is predicted by this theory,” said CERN theorist Michelangelo Mangano in A press release.

Dark matter is thought to make up most of the matter in the universe and has already been detected by its ability to create gravitational distortions in outer space.

“The Higgs boson itself may indicate new phenomena, some of which may be responsible for dark matter in the universe,” said Luca Malgeri, spokesperson for CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), one of four large experiments of the Large Hadron Collider. which is built around a huge electromagnet.

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