Scientists at Europe's Large Hadron Collider began collecting data for the first time in more than two years on Wednesday, after a $150 million overhaul.
The LHC's first run, which ended in early 2013, resulted in the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson — the last fundamental subatomic particle predicted by the Standard Model, one of physics' most successful theories. The second run will follow up on the Higgs discovery, but also look for signs of phenomena that go beyond the Standard Model — such as dark matter particles, supersymmetry and extra spatial dimensions.
During the past two years, the $10 billion LHC's 17-mile-round (27-kilometer-round) underground ring of magnets was beefed up to handle almost twice as much collision energy as it did for the first run (13 trillion electron volts vs. 8 trillion electron volts).
Thousands of scientists and engineers at Europe's CERN particle physics center, which straddles the Swiss-French border, have been ramping up the collider's proton beams over the past couple of months to prepare for the resumption of data delivery at 13 trillion electron volts, or 13 TeV. After working a last-minute kink or two out of the control system's software, CERN's team ran stable beams of protons through the collider and started collecting data in earnest at 10:40 a.m. CEST (4:40 a.m. ET) Wednesday.
"It is time for new physics!" CERN's director general, Rolf Heuer, said in a celebratory news release. "We have seen the first data beginning to flow. Let's see what they will reveal to us about how our universe works."