After two years of upgrades and repairs, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland fires up again this month. This time it’s moving at twice the energy, looking for dark matter and exotic new particles.
Physicists at CERN held a press conference in Geneva on Thursday to announce the plans for the Large Hadron Collider’s second run.
“It’s going to be another new era of science, and we’ll see what we find,” said Dave Charlton, spokesperson for the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider, said at the press conference Thursday. “It’s very open this time. There’s many possibilities for what we might see.”
The massive particle collider runs in a 17-mile circumference ring under the Switzerland-France border. In 2013, physicists used the high-energy particle smasher to find the elusive Higgs boson. The Higgs boson explained why particles have mass, an idea first proposed in the 1960s.
It was a monumental achievement for the field of physics. It was the final piece in the Standard Model of physics, the theory which describes the particles that make up the universe and the forces between them.
Finding the Higgs boson is not the end of the story for the Large Hadron Collider. Physicists hope to create more Higgs bosons by increasing the energy of the particle collider. With more Higgs in more collisions, they can study the particle more closely, Charlton said, and learn more about its behavior.
But they also hope the higher energy collisions will help them discover new particles. One mystery physicists hope to unlock in the next phase of experiments is dark matter. Scientists estimate that dark matter makes up 85 percent of the universe, Mike Lamont, operations group leader for CERN, told CNN. It’s invisible, and it would explain effects physicists can observe on radiation and visible matter in the universe.
Finding dark matter and studying it will be the biggest challenge for the Large Hadron Collider’s second run, Charlton said.
“We know it has to be there. Can we create it and study in the laboratory?” he asked.
Over the coming months the Large Hadron Collider will warm up, running at lower energies to prepare the machinery to run at experiment levels, said CERN general director Rolf-Dieter Heuer.