The Large Hadron Collider may have only just gone back online, but it's already going to take a vacation, shutting down data collection for 5 days. What gives?
Never fear, the LHC hasn't gone workshy on us; this is the first of 3 planned "technical stops" of 2015 that give CERN engineers a chance to carry out maintenance tasks.
NEWS: LHC Restarts High-Energy Quest for Exotic Physics
As described in a recent LHC news update, powering up the world's largest particle accelerator after being shut down since 2013 for an upgrade isn't as simple as "pressing a button." In the build-up to Run 2, that officially began this month, recommissioning of the particle beam actually began in early April and the whole system was cryogenically cooled at the end of 2014.
In short, just because science wasn't being carried out for the majority of the past few months, the LHC has been an engineering beast and work on the 17 mile ring of superecooled electromagnets and complex experiments never slowed down.
NEWS: Particle Slam! LHC Restarts (Low-Energy) Proton Collisions
"The accelerator is made up of thousands of components that all have to work together harmoniously and need to be re-tuned at regular intervals," writes the LHC news release. "Each year of LHC operation therefore includes five-day technical stops every ten weeks or so. The experiments take advantage of these intervals to carry out their own maintenance work."
During this technical stop, several days will be dedicated to "scrubbing the beam pipes" in preparation for an increase in the accelerator's luminosity in this higher-energy regime. Also, while one of the LHC's smallest experiments (LHCf) gets dismantled for maintenance, there will be a low-energy beam run that will be used by the other experiments for calibration purposes while avoiding high-energy damage to the dismantled LHCf detector.
ANALYSIS: LHC Revs-Up for Most Powerful Particle Collisions Ever
Now that the LHC is operating at collision energies of 13 TeV, almost twice the energy that produced the Higgs boson discovery in 2012, physicists are hopeful that the world's most complex machine will churn out some revolutionary discoveries. But along the way, strategic pauses are needed.
The next technical stop is planned for the end of August.