Physicists dream big with idea for a particle collider on the moon

Researchers have calculated what a monumental, hypothetical machine they might obtain. A particle collider encircling the moon might accelerate particles with high power of 14 quadrillion electron volts. That’s about 1000 times the power of the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, at CERN.

It’s not an idea anybody expects will change into actuality anytime quickly, says particle physicist James Beacham of Duke University. Instead, he and physicist Frank Zimmermann of CERN thought about the chance “primarily for fun.” But physicists of future generations might doubtlessly build a collider on the moon, Beacham says.

Such a gigantic machine would most probably be built underneath the moon’s surface to keep it away from wild temperature fluctuations, as the difference between extreme temperatures on the moon is nearly 300 degrees Celsius. The Lunar LHC might be powered by a ring of photovoltaic panels around the moon.

Our present LHC is a 27-kilometer ring. It boosts particles, such as protons with a speed close to that of light. They collide with each other, and during the collision, massive particles such as Higgs Boson are created for just 15.6 thousand-billion-billions of a second although, it’s enough for researchers to study them.

Protons are accelerated through high-frequency voltage. A uniform magnetic field with enormous flux density causes protons to follow a circular path. As the proton gains kinetic energy, the radius of the circular path increases, and the particle leaves the cyclotron. It is then steered and focused by magnetic fields while on its way.

To understand how to laws of physics work at higher energies than that of LHC, scientists will need bigger accelerators. The proposed Earth-based Future Circular Collier would be 100 kilometers in circumference, dwarfing the LHC’s 27-kilometer ring. But it still would be 110 times shorter than the collier on the moon, as a lunar collider would be encircling the moon and it will be about 11,000 kilometers in circumference. 

While building a collider that big on Earth might be possible, it could potentially displace people who live in its path — not an issue on the moon. But, like other proposed projects that could alter the moon’s appearance, the idea raises thorny questions about who gets to decide the fate of the Earth’s companion, Beacham acknowledges. Those questions will presumably be left for future generations to sort out.



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