The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), which is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, located in Geneva, Switzerland, has completed its first three years of proton runs and will be suspending the rest until 2015. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) made the announcement yesterday morning.
The first three years of the LHC’s proton-on-proton beam collision experiments have produced important scientific finds, such as a particle thought to be the Higgs boson (the “God particle”) and another ultra-rare particle, as well as countless other scientific data that will prove extremely helpful for researchers.
The proton runs consisted of two, ultra high-energy beams of positively-charged particles being shot around a 17-mile-long circular particle accelerator tunnel underground at nearly the speed of light. The two beams essentially crash into each other, creating a reaction that helps researchers and scientists discover new particles.
Throughout the three-year stretch, the LHC ran 6 quadrillion (that's 15 zeroes) collisions of the two proton beams, which resulted in 5 billion collisions that were of interest, according to CERN. 6 quadrillion collisions over three years is about 228 trillion per hour, or around 63 million every second.
The LHC is now entering its winter shutdown period for maintenance, and it'll boot back up in early next year, where it will be colliding two different beams of particles — protons with lead-ions, the first collisions of which began back in September and will continue through the end of 2014. The LHC will restart again in 2015, where it will switch back to proton-proton collisions.