Two-Year Shutdown Of Large Hadron Collider Begins
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was officially shut down early Thursday morning, beginning a two-year period of repair and upgrades before the particle accelerator officially resumes its work in late 2014.
According to Jason Palmer of BBC News, the LHC´s beams were “dumped” on the morning of February 14, but it wasn´t until Saturday morning the atom smasher´s more than 1,700 magnets reached room temperature.
The Collider, which is best known for identifying what scientists believe is the Higgs boson, “has never been run at the full energies for which it was designed,” Palmer said. That is due to “technical faults” that occurred shortly after it was first powered up, he said.
In spite of that, the LHC, which is located on the border between France and Switzerland, had already collected more than 100 petabytes of data in its quest to better explain the mysteries of the universe, including the Big Bang theory and the existence of dark matter, according to Computerworld´s Sharon Gaudin. That is equal to more than 700 years worth of HD-quality movies, she added.
“We have been running successfully,” University of Oxford physicist Tony Weidberg, who works on the LHC’s Atlas detector, told members of the media, according to The Huffington Post, “but only at half the maximum energy, because we can only safely run the magnets at half the design current.”
However, those technical problems should be a thing of the past following the end of what is being dubbed “Long Shutdown 1,” when the machine — which operated at peak particle energies of eight trillion electron-volts (TeV) last year — should be capable of running at 14 TeV by the end of next November. Should it successfully reach that milestone, Palmer said it would be “far and away the highest-energy collisions ever attempted by scientists.”
The upgrades will cost a reported $54 million, and while the particle collider will be powered up again in late 2014, its work will not resume until sometime in 2015. Despite the mechanical issues with the equipment, however, European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) officials in charge of the LHC believe the machine´s work thus far has been extremely fruitful.
“We have every reason to be very satisfied with the LHC’s first three years,” CERN’s director general, Rolf Heuer, said in a statement, according to Discovery News. “The machine, the experiments, the computing facilities and all infrastructures behaved brilliantly, and we have a major scientific discovery in our pocket.”