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LHC : Inside the world's largest particle collider

© Julien Faure

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC), operated by the European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN), is a 27 km ring buried 100 metres underground between France and Switzerland.

It is the world's largest research center for particle physics. It covers an area of 626 hectares near Geneva and nearly 11,000 people work there every day.

With 23 European Member States and dozens of other associated countries, the CERN has the status of an international organization.

The CERN was established in the aftermath of the Second World War to study particle physics and the history of the Universe.

Over the years, major discoveries were made and the CERN continued its expansion underground. Experiments requiring more space with larger accelerators.

A tunnel with a circumference of 27 km, the LHC, was put into operation in 2008. It is the most powerful particle collider ever built in the world and makes it possible to recreate conditions similar to those that existed moments after the big bang.

The particles are thrown against each other at a speed close to the speed of light in order to make new particles appear. Huge detectors placed in their path capture and analyse the millions of collisions generated every second. These are the Atlas, Alice, CMS detectors, buried in "caverns" 100 metres underground. They discover the famous Higgs boson in 2012.

CERN's instruments are regularly shut down for major revisions and upgrades. This is a unique opportunity to visit these places, which are usually inaccessible due to the strong radiation emitted during experiments. The current maintenance will last almost two and a half years, with a resumption planned for 2021.

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