The world’s largest particle smasher continues to surprise researchers in ways never though possible. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)’s Large Hadron Collider has been smashing protons into one another at almost the speed of light, and has been setting new records like it’s nobody’s business.
Images released on Thursday, May 21 have dazzled scientists and nuclear enthusiasts across the globe. According to Live Science, the pictures depict the fallout from these high-speed collisions, and they are the first images from the research facility in Geneva, Switzerland to reach the public in about two years.
A test run this week smashed protons into each other along a 17-mile long corridor inside of the LHC, which lies deep below the surface of the Earth. The protons reached energies of 13 tera-electronvolts (TeV), nearly double what the collider was capable of achieving prior to its recent repairs and upgrades.
The energy produced by the protons is similar to the energy produced by a mosquito buzzing through the air. This may not seem like much, but it’s all relative; the protons were much smaller than a mosquito, which makes their ability to produce this amount of energy all the more amazing. According to Greg Rakness, the run coordinator for one of the LHC experiments, the particles producing the record-breaking energies were about a million times smaller than the width of a human hair.
The LHC speeds up 100 billion to 1,000 billion protons at a time and shoots them around a ring using a series of powerful magnets in order to achieve a collision. Occasionally, these high-speed particles can crash into equipment and cause damage, and the two-year repair period sought to address this issue. After the first test, researchers at CERN are confident that they’ve tweaked the LHC in the right direction.
The tests were conducted so researchers could figure out where to place “collimators,” or large blocks of metal designed to block speeding protons from vulnerable equipment within the collider. The test was hugely successful, and it set a new energy record to boot.
With the new setup inside the LHC, scientists are excited to start more high-energy collision tests, and hope to discover more exotic particles like the Higgs-Boson, which was discovered in 2012. The experiments conducted by CERN consistently challenge our views of the way the universe functions, and as efficiencies in the LHC improve, we can only imagine what’s in store for the future.