November 20, 2009 / 6:40 PM / 10 years ago

CERN restarts Big Bang collider for biggest test yet

Overview of the first element (L) of the huge magnet of the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) experimental site at the European Organization for Nuclear Research CERN (Centre Europeen de Recherche Nucleaire) before its lowering on Thursday in the French village of Cessy near the Swiss city of Geneva November 29, 2006. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) - Scientists are restarting a giant sub-atomic particle collider built to reproduce “Big Bang” conditions, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said on Friday.

After a year’s delay, they hope to have beams circulating by early Saturday in the huge tunnels under the French-Swiss border that are part of the world’s biggest machine, and then accelerate them this weekend, CERN spokesman James Gillies said.

“At the moment they’re putting beams down in the Large Hadron Collider and as the night goes on they’ll take the beams through and start circulating them,” he told Reuters.

The experiment will not be properly under way until January when the LHC is operating at full capacity, he said.

Technical problems forced CERN to shut down the 10 billion Swiss franc ($9.82 billion) collider just nine days after it was started for the first time in September 2008.

The problem was a faulty splice in the super-conducting cable connecting two cooling magnets in the 27-km (17-mile) underground ring, which smashes particles at a temperature of just above absolute zero to recreate conditions believed to exist at the start of the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

As the particles smash into each other at nearly the speed of light — once the collider is operating at full throttle, which will take several weeks — they will explode in a burst of energy which scientists will monitor for new or previously unseen particles which they predict could help explain the nature of mass and the origins of the universe.

CERN said last year’s accident never posed any danger. The Geneva-based institution has had to rebuff suggestions that the experiment would create millions of black holes that would suck in the Earth.

Reporting by Jonathan Lynn; Editing by Stephanie Nebehay and Louise Ireland

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