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CERN's Large Hadron Collider Restarts After Three-Year Upgrade

The particle collider will reach a record level of energy in the coming months, scientists say.

A blue section of CERN's Large Hadron Collider runs through a grey tunnel, with the letters "LHC" painted in white.
The Large Hadron Collider returned to service Friday.
CERN

The Large Hadron Collider restarted in Switzerland on Friday, after more than three years of inactivity due to maintenance and upgrades. Two beams of protons circulated in opposite directions around the particle collider at 12:16 CEST (3:16 a.m. PT), according to CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

CERN studies particle physics, the fundamental particles of matter. The Large Hadron Collider is a particle accelerator that smashes protons, a type of hadron particle, together at close to the speed of light. Scientists then analyze the results of these collisions to get a better idea of how the subatomic world works.

"The machines and facilities underwent major upgrades during the second long shutdown of CERN's accelerator complex," CERN's Director for Accelerators and Technology Mike Lamont said in a statement. "The LHC itself has undergone an extensive consolidation programme and will now operate at an even higher energy and, thanks to major improvements in the injector complex, it will deliver significantly more data to the upgraded LHC experiments."

Friday's beams contained a relatively small number of protons and circulated at 450 billion electron volts, CERN's beams boss Rhodri Jones noted in the statement. The team will gradually increase the energy and intensity over the coming months until they deliver at a record energy of 13.6 trillion electron volts.

This will allow physicists to conduct a more thorough study of the Higgs boson, a particle theorized by Peter Higgs and other scientists in 1964 and essentially discovered as a particle in 2012 using the Large Hadron Collider. 

A loop 16.6 miles in circumference that runs under the France-Switzerland border near Geneva, the Large Hadron Collider is the world's highest-energy particle collider. In 2020, CERN said it plans to build a second collider that'll be almost four times the size and may cost up to $23 billion.