As the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) prepares to fire up again at the end of the month following two year’s of maintenance, its operators have released a video shot by a drone as it flies over Alice, one of the LHC’s four detectors.
Or, as the team at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) refer to it as, “like an underground telescope aimed at the first instant of the Big Bang”.
As reported by Cnet, Alice is designed to study the physics of strongly interacting matter at extreme energy densities, where a phase of matter called quark-gluon plasma forms, which is thought to have formed shortly after the Big Bang at the beginning of the universe.
The matter is believed to be a hot, dense mix of particles, all moving at near light-speed, primarily made up of quarks, the fundamental building blocks of matter, and gluons, which carry the strong force that binds the quarks into protons and neutrons.
Today, quarks are never seen in isolation, they are always bound into protons and neutrons. But in the LHC, collisions generate temperatures up to 100,000 times hotter than the core of the sun, which in turn creates conditions similar to those just after the big bang. This allows the protons and neutrons to unbind, separating the quarks and gluons and allowing them to float free, cool and reform — giving researchers cluse as to how matter originally formed at the beginning of the universe.