Ten years ago, scientists were able to Higgs boson particle and help us understand the universe using the Large Hadron Collider. In 2018 they did it again and unlocked new insights about protons.
Now, with a new set of questions, they plan to restart the particle accelerator this month to potentially better understand cosmic unknowns like dark matter.
“This is a particle that has answered some questions for us and provided many others,” said Dr. Sarah Demers, a professor of physics at Yale University, told NPR.
The Higgs Boson boson was first observed when scientists at the European Center for Nuclear Research, or CERN, spun particles together and crashed at the speed of light. They did that using the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator – the Large Hadron Collider.
Since 1964, physicists theorized that this particle existed, but it took nearly 50 years to find evidence.
The proof of the existence of the Higgs boson was an important milestone in fundamental physics, and Dr. Francois Englert and Dr. Peter Higgs won a Nobel Prize in Physics. Despite the scientific achievement, the work of understanding how the universe works is far from over.
The accelerator completed a second experimental run in 2018 that provided new insights into the structures of protons and how the Higgs boson decays.
And after more than three years of maintenance and upgrades, the accelerator will be relaunched Tuesday — this time with data tripling, preserving its intense beams for longer and allowing for more studies overall.
“There has to be more because we can’t explain so many things around us,” said Demers, who is also working on the third run at CERN. “Something really big is missing, and when we call it really big, we’re talking about 96 percent of the universe being really big.”
What Demers is referring to is dark matter, invisible matter believed to exist based on observations of the cosmos, and dark energy, which fuels the accelerating expansion of the universe. She hopes the upcoming run will provide insight into the elusive yet overwhelming bulk of our cosmos.
In a press release, CERN wrote:“Finding the answers to these and other intriguing questions will not only expand our understanding of the universe at its smallest scales, but may also help unravel some of the greatest mysteries of the universe as a whole, such as how it is the way become what it is and what its ultimate fate might be.”
The third run is expected to last over the next four years and scientists are already starting work on Run 4, which is scheduled for 2030.