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LHC Records First High-Energy Collision

December 10, 2009

The largest atom smasher in the world has caught its first high-energy collision of protons, CERN announced on Wednesday.

Physicists are hoping that these collisions will give them better insight into phenomena like dark matter and antimatter. They also believe it will ultimately help them understand the beginning of the universe billions of years ago, which many believe is the result of a massive explosion known as the Big Bang, reported the Associated Press.

The collisions were recorded Tuesday evening as the Large Hadron Collider went through test runs to prepare for next year’s operations, said Christine Sutton of the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN.

Sutton said the collisions were produced with two beams of circulating particles moving in opposite directions at 1.18 trillion electron volts (TeV).

The Atlas “experiment,” one of four major detectors in cathedral-sized rooms in the collider’s underground tunnel at Geneva, was able to register collisions.

“They recorded a handful of collisions, and one of them looks quite nice, so it’s on their Web site,” she said.

Sutton said the collisions occurred when the machine was ramped up briefly to 1.18 TeV.

In November, a world record was set at that same level for proton acceleration when Geneva’s particle beams traveled with 20 percent more power than former record holder Fermilab near Chicago.

Many more collisions are planned to take place at lower energies in order for the experiments to calibrate their equipment and be ready for future advances.

CERN then plans more collisions at 1.18 TeV so that all the experiments have the chance to record data at that level,  but new scientific discoveries are not likely to be made before the beams are ramped up still higher, to 3.5 TeV next year.

That level represents 3.5 times more energy that has been reached at Fermilab, which had the former most powerful collider.

Image Caption: LHC magnet: superconducting quadrupole magnet. Credit: CERN

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