Just what makes up all that black stuff in between the stars, anyway? Now that CERN's Large Hadron Collider is back online, scientists may soon have an answer for what “dark matter” is. The European research organization announced Wednesday that for the first time in 27 months the LHC is again smashing particles together at record speeds, allowing scientists to explore areas of research that have been heretofore unimaginable.
The LHC is located 100 meters underground in the countryside at the border of France and Switzerland. It generates vast amounts of data that's later used in scientific research, and it looks as if it will now generate more than ever. CERN currently has the LHC beaming particles at 13TeV, almost twice the power it used during its initial run, from 2010 to 2013.
“With the LHC back in the collision-production mode, we celebrate the end of two months of beam commissioning,” Frédérick Bordry, CERN's director of accelerators and technology, said in a statement Wednesday. “It is a great accomplishment and a rewarding moment for all of the teams involved in the work performed during the long shutdown of the LHC, in the powering tests and in the beam commissioning process. All these people have dedicated so much of their time to making this happen.”
It's humanity's best hope for finding out exactly what makes up dark matter, the invisible material that fills 96 percent of the universe. Dark matter could represent a lost link in what scientists know about the formation of the solar system or present clues to the universe's expansion. Researchers know it has something to do with gravity, but that's pretty much the extent of it.
The Large Hadron Collider will operate continuously for three years.
“We have the best ship in the world, we have the best crew -- now we are ready to go on the next exploration,” Sergio Bertolucci, CERN's head of research, told BBC News. “We are going into vastly uncharted space and there could be big surprises.”