On Saturday 16 February at 8.25am the shift crew in the CERN Control Centre extract the beams from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) for the last time before the machine's first Long Shutdown. The following message marks the event on LHC Page 1: "No beam for a while. Access required: Time estimate ~2 years."
January's proton-lead run was followed last week by four days of proton-proton collisions at 1.38 TeV. Final proton collisions in the LHC took place on Thursday at 7.24am, but beams were kept in the machine for 48 hours for "quench tests" on the magnets. A quench is when a superconducting magnet fails to maintain a superconducting state, and therefore stops operating correctly. This can happen if a tiny amount of the beam is off orbit and deposits energy in the magnets. The tests aim to establish what beam loss is actually required to quench the magnets.
The LHC’s first run saw major advances in physics, including the discovery of a new particle that looks increasingly like the long–sought Higgs boson, announced on 4 July 2012. And during the last weeks of the run, the remarkable figure of 100 petabytes of data stored in the CERN mass-storage systems was surpassed. This data volume is roughly equivalent to 700 years of full HD-quality movies.
The LHC now enters its two-year shutdown, which will see a hive of maintenance activity on all of CERN's accelerators. Work on the LHC will include the consolidation of more than 10,000 interconnections between magnets. The entire ventilation system for the 628-metre circumference Proton Synchrotron will be replaced, as will over 100 kilometres of cables on the Super Proton Synchrotron. The LHC is scheduled to resume in 2015.