Officials at the CERN particle-physics lab gathered today to celebrate a decade since the announcement of the discovery of the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Held in CERN’s main auditorium, the anniversary symposium featured talks about the discovery as well as the latest Higgs research and what to expect in the coming decades of particle-physics research.
The event took place in the very same venue in which the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the LHC announced on 4 July 2012 the discovery of a new particle with features consistent with that of the Higgs boson. ATLAS and CMS measured the Higgs boson’s mass to be 125 GeV.
A year later François Englert and Peter Higgs bagged the Nobel Prize for Physics for the part they played in the prediction of a new fundamental field, known as the Higgs field, which manifests itself as the Higgs boson and gives mass to the elementary particles.
“The discovery of the Higgs boson was a monumental milestone in particle physics. It marked both the end of a decades-long journey of exploration and the beginning of a new era of studies of this very special particle,” says CERN director general Fabiola Gianotti, who in 2012 was spokesperson for the ATLAS experiment.
“I remember with emotion the day of the announcement, a day of immense joy for the worldwide particle physics community and for all the people who worked tirelessly over decades to make this discovery possible.”
Today’s symposium at CERN also featured video messages from Higgs and Englert as well as former CERN director general Rolf-Dieter Heuer, who was leading the lab when the anouncement was made. “I think it’s splendid that you are having a celebration after 10 years,” noted Higgs, who is now 93.
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Englert, meanwhile, said he “vividly” remembered the events on the 4 July 2012 and paid tribute to the contribution of the US-Belgian physicist Robert Brout, who died in 2011 and who may well have shared the Nobel prize with Higgs and Englert had he lived for longer. “Today, we celebrate the memory of this great physicist and wonderful man,” noted Englert.
Other talks at the symposium were given by Lyn Evans, who helped to build the LHC, as well as senior officials at the ATLAS and CMS detectors and leading theorists. Wrapping up the morning session, Gianotti noted that the discovery of the Higgs boson opened up a new “era of exploration” that has “wide-ranging implications” for particle physics and beyond.
She also highlighted the “superb” performance of the LHC in the decade since the discovery – noting nine million Higgs bosons have been produced at both ATLAS and CMS to date — as well as improvements in analysis methods and collaboration with theory.
Meanwhile, the next science run at the LHC – what is known as “run 3” – will begin tomorrow on 5 July. The was shut down four years ago to allow engineers to carry out maintenance, consolidation and upgrade work to CERN’s accelerator complex. The first beams were injected on 20 April with the two proton beams accelerated to a record energy of 6.8 TeV per beam before the luminosity and the stability of the beams were improved. ATLAS and CMS are now both expected to receive more collisions during this run than in the two previous physics runs combined.
The third run of the LHC will last until 2025. The LHC will then shut down to make way for a major upgrade where it will be converted into the High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC), which is designed to increase the collider’s luminosity increase by a factor of 10 over the original machine. HL-LHC is expected to begin in 2029 and operate until 2041. “The future is bright” noted Gianotti today.