The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the particle accelerator famous for producing evidence of the elusive Higgs Boson, is taking a well-deserved break — all experimentation temporarily shut down on Monday. But unlike the time the LHC shut down in 2016 after a weasel chewed through some wires, this pause in operations was deliberate.
Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, better known as CERN, will spend the next two years performing routine maintenance and upgrading the LHC’s capabilities. If all goes according to plan, they’ll switch it back on in early 2021, according to a CERN press release.
The next run of experiments will involve collisions at higher energy levels than ever before, which CERN scientists hope will yield more and higher quality data than ever before. To make that possible, scientists will replace the two accelerators in the LHC — which contains two particle accelerators facing each other — with new and improved models that can generate more intense beams of hydrogen ions.
Better accelerators and more intense beams will allow CERN scientists to smash particles together harder than ever before, which they say unlocks new experiments that are currently beyond the LHC’s capacity.
While the LHC’s operators won’t conduct any new experiments for over two years, there’s a good chance that we’ll hear about new discoveries in particle physics in that time. Right now, CERN is sitting on a massive backlog of LHC data. The recently-completed run of experiments, which began back in 2015, yielded 300 petabytes of data, which CERN compared to a millennium of nonstop video footage.
While some CERN scientists will be preparing the LHC for the future of particle physics experimentation, others will spend that time poring through the existing data, looking for any findings that they may have missed — stay tuned.
READ MORE: The Large Hadron Collider is shutting down for 2 years [Science News]
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