Scientists say they have created a mini Big Bang using the world’s largest atom smasher, resulting in a temperature “a millions times hotter” than the sun’s center, the BBC reports.
In an underground tunnel near Geneva, the European Organization for Nuclear Research smashed together particles inside the $10 billion accelerator known as the Large Hadron Collider, in an effort to learn more about the plasma that formed the universe a split- second after the Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago. Scientists say a tiny ball of matter exploded and then quickly formed a melted “soup” of matter, which then re-ordered itself into what is now the universe.
The experiment, using lead ions instead of protons, produced the highest densities and temperatures ever created by scientists, and a kind of matter formerly unseen on Earth, The Telegraph reports.
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“At these temperatures even protons and neutrons, which make up the nuclei of atoms, melt, resulting in a hot dense soup of quarks and gluons known as a quark-gluon plasma,” researcher David Evans from the University of Birmingham told the BBC.
The Guardian explains that the moment the scientists are re-creating happened about 0.00000000001 seconds after the Big Bang, an interval when “protons and neutrons can’t even stay whole.”
Scientists are also trying to figure out more about the “strong force,” which binds the nuclei of atoms and gives them most of their mass.
LIZ GOODWIN / The Associated Press