After three years of operation, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) on Thursday removed the beams from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s largest particle accelerator, in order to begin a two-year maintenance period.
“We have every reason to be very satisfied with the LHC’s first three years,” said CERN Director-General Rolf Heuer. “The machine, the experiments, the computing facilities and all infrastructures behaved brilliantly, and we have a major scientific discovery in our pocket.”
The discovery of a new particle was announced with great fanfare on July 4, 2012, by two groups of researchers at CERN, based near Geneva. Press reports went on to claim that the scientists had located what is referred to as the Higgs boson, a particle predicted to exist 50 years earlier. Proof of the particle’s existence would validate several as-yet-unproven physical theories. However, tests are still being carried out to determine whether the particle is really the Higgs boson.
While the collider is being serviced, researchers will begin evaluating the massive amounts of data (100 petabytes) collected during the three years of testing. The LHC is expected to resume running in 2015.