CERN's Large Hadron Collider taking a vacation until 2021

Inside the Large Hadron Collider. Photo by Maximilien Brice/CERNWhen you're the world's largest particle collider,  you get used a lot in order to try to help scientists search for the bits and pieces that make up our universe. The Large Hadron Collider is located beneath the French-Swiss border, and is 17 miles (27 kilometers) long. Using strong magnets, the LHC accelerates particles to incredible speeds and smashes them together in an attempt to find fundamental particles that make up matter. In order to help in that search, the LHC shut down for upgrades on December 3 and won't be back up and smashing particles until sometime in early 2021.The "vacation" is being called LS2 for "Long Shutdown 2" as it is the second time that the facility has undergone downtime during an upgrade. What's changing at LHC? Since protons -- the heart of the hydrogen atom -- are generally the particles being smashed together at the facility, the components that strip the protons from hydrogen will be improved to give the proton beam a leap in energy.With that upgrade and additional work on the detectors that look for fundamental particles like the Higgs boson that was discovered at LHC, it's hoped that the facility will make new discoveries that help humanity to understand how the universe was formed.