CERN announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) successfully tested particle collisions at the highest energy level possible after its updates, 13 TeV (13 trillion electron volts). After the restart of the enormous particle accelerator took place at Easter, the energy levels were gradually increased and in Wednesday’s late night the collisions reached the maximum energy.
This test involved the teams that manage the various CERN experiments: ALICE, ATLAS, CMS, LHCb, LHCf, MOEDAL and TOTEM. The aim was to verify that the LHC could reach the energy announced after the period of upgrades but also to set-up the systems that protect the machine and the particle detectors from particles that stray from edges of the particle beam.
A key element of this test phase is the set-up of the collimators. These devices are able to correct the particle beams by absorbing those which stray from them. At the levels of energy LHC works at, it’s vital that magnets and detectors are properly protected.
The tests at maximum energy are continuing and are expected to have a duration between 10 and 15 days to confirm that LHC can operate at those levels and begin the second season of operations. As always, the tasks are carried out with great care because experience taught CERN staff that there may be unexpected events that cause considerable damage.
So far the operations to restart LHC to begin the second season of operation, code-named Run 2, went well with only a few small hitches. Delays of a few days are irrelevant in a monumental work like that around LHC, which began a few decades ago.
If everything continues to run normally, at the beginning of June the various CERN experiments will fully resume their activities. This means that the various detectors will start collecting data from the particle collisions that will be carried out.
The expectations for this second season of operation are huge because everyone takes for granted that there will be a new breakgthroughs in physics. The problem is that it’s impossible to say when fundamental discoveries will be made or if the experiments will give us some surprises.