Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. Image Editor/Flickr/CC BY

The Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, reached the end of its 2011 proton run at 5:15 p.m. Sunday. The world’s largest particle accelerator has been running for 180 consecutive days, directing protons together on a collision course. The collider has gone beyond its operational objectives for the second year in a row, presenting about six times the data originally expected, according to a press release.

Six times the data expected

At the beginning of the year, scientists hoped to produce one “inverse femtobarn” worth of data. That is a scientific measurement of particle collision events, equal to about 70 trillion collisions. That first inverse femtobarn happened on  June 17. Since then, five more have have been collected.

LHC at ‘cruising speed’

Steve Meyers, the Director for Accelerators and Technology for CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said:

“At the end of this year’s proton running, the LHC is reaching cruising speed. To put things in context, the present data production rate is a factor of 4 million higher than in the first run in 2010 and a factor of 30 higher than at the beginning of 2011.”

What is the LHC for?

The LHC is a massive experiment designed to recreate the “big bang” — an event that is believed to have started the universe — in miniature. The knowledge gained from these experiments have the potential of redefining our understanding of physics as well as the creation of reality. The collider sends two beams of protons — one of the building blocks that make up every atom –  in opposite directions, forcing them to collide together at incredible speeds and temperatures.

‘Accessed unexplored territory’

Spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti said:

“It has been a remarkable and exciting year for the whole LHC scientific community, in particular for our students and post-docs from all over the world. We have made a huge number of measurements of the Standard Model and accessed unexplored territory in searches for new physics.”

Sifting through data

As scientists continue to sift through and analyze the data collected, the collider operators are preparing the LHC for runs in the following year. The next experiment scheduled involves a four-week run of ion particle collisions.


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