In early 2013, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) shut down for two years of planned maintenance and repairs. Now the world’s most powerful accelerator is ready to start up again, this time at 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV) — almost double its previous energy.¹ How much energy is that?
Astronomers use electron volts to measure the energy of electromagnetic radiation, or photons, in the x-ray and gamma-ray wavebands of the electromagnetic spectrum.² A single electron volt is used as a unit of energy that is equal to the energy transferred by an electron in accelerating it through a potential difference of one volt.
To get an idea of scale – 0.3 eV is about the energy in a molecule of oxygen³, so then what is a teraelectronvolt (TeV)? It is 1,000,000,000,000 electron Volts or 1012 electron Volts – the energy of motion in a flying mosquito. Its in the range of TeV where high energy astrophysics looks at the x-ray and gamma ray energy ranges to research from galaxy clusters to neutrinos, from dark matter to black holes.
One of the mysteries hoped to be solved by the LHC is the source of dark matter or dark energy.
Emslie, John, 1813-1875. Astronomical diagrams, [ca. 1850]