Scientists will soon debut the blockbuster sequel to the so-called Big Bang Machine, which has already found the elusive Higgs Boson.
They’re promising nearly twice the energy and far more violent particle crashes this time around – and hope to get a glimpse of dark matter.
After a two-year shutdown and upgrade, the multi-billion dollar Large Hadron Collider is about to ramp up for its second three-year run.
Scientists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say if nature cooperates, the more powerful beam crashes will give them a peek into the unseen dark universe.
Beams should start running through the giant machine later this month, with the first high energy crashes probably coming in May, accelerator director Frederick Bordry said in a Thursday news conference in Geneva. A test beam ran through the collider last weekend, he said.
Scientists hope to see all sorts of new physics, including a first ever glimpse of dark matter, one of the chief focuses of the experiment.
‘I want to see the first light in the dark universe,’ CERN General Director Rolf Heuer said.
‘If I see that, then nature is kind to me.’
Dark matter — and its cousin, dark energy — make up most of the universe, yet scientists haven’t been able to see them yet, so researchers are looking for them in high-energy crashes, in orbit on a special experiment on the international space station, and in a deep underground mine.
‘What we know about dark matter is that it exists and then very little after that,’ MIT professor Michael Williams said at a science conference in February.
CERN spent about $150 million to upgrade during its down time, opening the massive machine every 20 meters (66 feet), checking magnets, improving connections.
‘It’s nearly a new machine,’ Heuer said.
‘It has the power which can melt 500 kilos (1100 pounds) of copper. Each beam. Two beams together, one ton of copper.’
Professor Tara Shears, who leads the University of Liverpool LHCb group, said: ‘We have unfinished business with understanding the universe.
‘We want to see what the new data shows us about antimatter, and why there’s so little in the universe. We want to chase the hints we’ve seen in previous measurements, whose behaviour didn’t quite match our expectations, in case these hints turn into discoveries.
‘We’ve spent the shut-down readying and improving the LHCb detectors so that we can explore this new data with precision.’
Dr Victoria Martin, from Edinburgh University, a member of the Atlas team, said: ‘Using data from LHC Run One we discovered the Higgs boson particle.
However only a limited number of Higgs particles were produced and it has not yet been possible to test every prediction made by Peter Higgs and others.
‘The higher energy and more frequent proton collisions in Run Two will allow us to investigate the Higgs particle in much more detail.
‘Higher energy may also allow the mysterious ‘dark matter’ observed in galaxies to be made and studied in the lab for the first time.’
On December 9 the magnets on one section of the LHC ring were successfully powered to the level needed for a single particle beam to reach 6.5 TeV.
The goal this year will be to run two beams of proton particles in opposite directions to produce 13 TeV collisions.