You are now watching the beginning of the Universe. Or better said, a small scale version of what scientists think happened one millionth of a second after the Big Bang, created inside the 16.77-mile acceleration ring of the Large Hadron Collider.
The objective of the experiments—which will be happening for the next four weeks—is to study how the Universe may have formed at the very beginning. Until now, the LHC has been used to conduct proton-smashing experiments designed to find the Force. This is the first time that the LHC has crashed ions against each other.
These first images show the results at ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) and the CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), which have scientists—like ALICE's David Evans from the University of Birmingham, UK—pretty excited:
This process took place in a safe, controlled environment, generating incredibly hot and dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures of over ten trillion degrees, a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun.
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.
Yes, nothing like creating dense sub-atomic fireballs with temperatures a million times hotter than the centre of the Sun to make a physicist happy. That and fresh quark-gluon plasma pizza. [CERN and CERN via Symmetry Breaking and BBC News]