Scientists in Geneva fired up the world’s most powerful particle-smashing machine Tuesday, beginning a run that they hope will provide insight into fundamental questions about what makes up the universe.
“This opens the door to a totally new era of discovery,” the project’s director of research Sergio Bertolucci told news agencies. “It is a step into the unknown where we will find things we thought were there and perhaps things we didn’t know existed.”
It was certainly seen as a triumph for researchers who’ve worked for more than a decade building the Large Hadron Collider at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN). The collider is intended to smash together protons and other tiny particles at previously unheard-of speeds.
Watch an animation of the collision, provided by CERN:
The resulting collisions could produce evidence of types of matter that physicists have theorized exist for decades, but have never seen. That includes “dark matter,” the hypothetical substance than some scientists think makes up as much as 80 percent of the universe, and the elusive Higgs Boson particle, the so-called “[God particle](http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/12/091204-lhc-large-hadron-collider-higgs-boson-first-collision.html)” scientists believe gives all other matter its weight.