LHC Re-creates First Moments Of The Universe And Sets New Energy Record

Big Bang Theory IRL

What was the universe like in the first few moments of its existence? We may not have a time machine to go back and witness that exact moment, but scientists are now able to recreate that brief and momentous time in the lab.

Today, the operators of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) announced that the machine (the world’s largest particle accelerator) had achieved stable beams, and was successfully smashing together tiny particles of lead at incredibly high energies.

The collision reached energies that were twice as large as those produced by any previous collision experiment (1045 trillion electron-volts).

The collision between the streams of positively-charged lead particles (they’ve been stripped of negatively-charged electrons) results in the release of an immense amount of energy, and the creation of a primordial mass of particles, with “temperatures about a quarter of a million times those at the core of the sun” according to physicist John Jowett in a press release from CERN (The European Organization for Nuclear Research, the scientific group that operates the LHC).

That super-heated, super-dense collection of particles is a quark-gluon plasma, the exact stuff that scientists think was present just seconds after the Big Bang occurred.

Researchers hope that by studying this substance they can better understand the basic physical laws of matter within our universe.

Flip through the gallery above to see how the lead-lead collisions were recorded in four experiments that make up the LHC, and what the investigators working on them hope to find.

CMS Lead Detection

“Heavy flavour particles will be produced at high rate in Season 2, opening up unprecedented opportunities to study hadronic matter in extreme conditions,” said Tiziano Camporesi, spokesperson for the Large Hadron Collider’s CMS collaboration, in a statement. The Compact Muon Solinoid (CMS) is just one of several experiments running concurrently on the LHC. According to CERN, “CMS is ideally suited to trigger on these rare probes and to measure them with high precision.” Learn more about the CMS instrument here.

ALICE Lead Collision

“There are many very dense and very hot questions to be addressed with the ion run for which our experiment was specifically designed and further improved during the shutdown,” ALICE collaboration spokesperson Paolo Giubellino said in a statement. “For instance, we are eager to learn how the increase in energy will affect charmonium production, and to probe heavy flavour and jet quenching with higher statistics. The whole collaboration is enthusiastically preparing for a new journey of discovery.” ALICE stands for A Large Ion Colliding Experiment. Learn more about ALICE here.

LHCb Lead Detection

“This is an exciting step into the unknown for LHCb, which has very precise particle identification capabilities. Our detector will enable us to perform measurements that are highly complementary to those of our friends elsewhere around the ring,” LHCb collaboration spokesperson Guy Wilkinson said in a statement. LHCb stands for Large Hadron Collider Beauty experiment. Learn more about LHCb here.

ATLAS Lead Collision

“The heavy-ion run will provide a great complement to the proton-proton data we’ve taken this year,” ATLAS collaboration spokesperson Dave Charlton said in a statement. “We are looking forward to extending ATLAS’ studies of how energetic objects such as jets and W and Z bosons behave in the quark gluon plasma.” Learn more about the ATLAS experiment here.