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Large Hadron Collider restart delayed

ANNA PANTELIA, CERN

Higgs boson fans will have to wait just a little bit longer for the Large Hadron Collider's triumphant return.

After nearly two years in dormancy, the world's largest particle smasher was set to be turned back on in March, but engineers at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, in Geneva, said Tuesday that an intermittent short circuit in a magnetic circuit in one of the machine's eight sectors has delayed the restart for a few days or up to several weeks.

It is a "well understood issue," but may take time to correct because the short occurred in a cold section of the machine, which needs to be warmed up before it can be fixed, then cooled again before it can be used. The LHC's electromagnets are chilled to ‑271.3 degrees C, a temperature colder than outer space.

"Any cryogenic machine is a time amplifier," said CERN's Director for Accelerators, Frédérick Bordry, "so what would have taken hours in a warm machine could end up taking us weeks."

The Associated Press reported that it could take up to five weeks.

The LHC identified the Higgs boson, aka the "God particle," in July 2012, an important step toward understanding the origin of mass. It was then turned off in early 2013 and put through a series of upgrades. When the collider is restarted, it will be cranked up to nearly full power, 13 trillion electrovolts, almost double the power of the first run, to search for dark matter, dark energy and evidence of supersymmetry.

  • Amanda Schupak

    Amanda Schupak is the science and technology editor at CBSNews.com