Operators of the world’s largest atom smasher restarted their massive machine Sunday in a run up to experiments probing secrets of the universe, a spokeswoman said.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, sent low energy beams of protons in both directions around the 27-kilometer (17-mile) tunnel housing the Large Hadron Collider under the Swiss-French border at Geneva, said Christine Sutton.
After a cautious trial period, CERN plans to ramp up the energy of the beams to unprecedented levels and start record-setting collisions of protons by late March, Sutton said.
The restart follows a 2 1/2 month winter shutdown during which scientists made improvements and checked out the smasher’s ability to collide protons at energies three times greater than has ever been achieved previously.
The new collisions are expected to shatter the subatomic particles and reveal still smaller fragments and forces than previously achieved on any collider, including the previous record-holder — the Tevatron at Fermilab outside Chicago.
The Large Hadron Collider was built to examine suspected phenomena such as dark matter, antimatter and ultimately the creation of the universe billions of years ago, which many theorize occurred as an explosion known as the Big Bang.
“We’ve started up again,” said Sutton.
The restart follows successful trial runs late last year when CERN showed that it had made a big comeback from its initial Sept. 10, 2008, startup with great fanfare. The machine was sidetracked nine days later when a badly soldered electrical splice overheated and set off a chain of damage to the magnets and other parts of the collider.
CERN had to undertake a $40 million program of repairs and improvements over 14 months before it was ready to retry the machine at the end of November. Then the the collider performed almost flawlessly, giving scientists valuable data in the four-week run before Christmas.
Don’t worry, this won’t happen.