CERN has announced that the LHC will run through to the end of 2012, with a short technical stop at the end of 2011. The beam energy for 2011 will be 3.5 TeV. This decision, taken by CERN management following the annual planning workshop held in Chamonix last week and a report delivered by the laboratory’s machine advisory committee, gives the LHC experiments a good chance of finding new physics in the next two years, before the machine goes into a long shutdown to prepare for higher-energy running starting in 2014.
“If the LHC continues to improve in 2011 as it did in 2010, we’ve got a very exciting year ahead of us,” says Steve Myers, CERN’s director for accelerators and technology. “The signs are that we should be able to increase the data-collection rate by at least a factor of three over the course of this year.”
The LHC was previously scheduled to run to the end of 2011 before going into a long technical stop to prepare it for running at the full design energy of 7 TeV per beam. However, the machine’s excellent performance in its first full year of operation forced a rethink. Improvements in 2011 should increase the rate at which the experiments can collect data by at least a factor of three compared with 2010. That would lead to enough data being collected in 2011 to bring tantalizing hints of any new physics that might be within reach of the LHC operating at its current energy. However, to turn those hints into a discovery would require more data than can be delivered in one year, hence the decision to postpone the long shutdown. Running through 2012 will give the LHC experiments the data needed to explore this energy range fully before moving up to higher energy.
“With the LHC running so well in 2010, and further improvements in performance expected, there’s a real chance that exciting new physics may be within our sights by the end of the year,” says Sergio Bertolucci, CERN’s director for research and computing. “For example, if nature is kind to us and the lightest supersymmetric particle, or the Higgs boson, is within reach of the LHC’s current energy, the data we expect to collect by the end of 2012 will put it within our grasp.”
The schedule foresees beams back in the LHC in late February and running through to mid-December. There will then be a short technical stop before resuming in early 2012.
• See also comments by CERN’s director-general, Rolf Heuer