Photos: Secrets of the 'God particle'

Updated 4:20 PM ET, Fri October 2, 2015
higgs boson 4higgs boson 4
1 of 9
Three years ago, scientists in Geneva, Switzerland, announced they had proved the existence of the so-called "God particle" known as Higgs boson -- a never-before-seen subatomic particle long thought to be a fundamental building block of the universe. This year, researchers from two different teams combined their measurements of the particle, providing an unprecedented picture of Higgs boson's production, decay and interaction with other particles. Click through the gallery for more. CERN
This graphic shows traces of the collision of particles from an experiment at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) -- a large particle detector in Geneva. The Standard Model of particle physics lays out the basics of how elementary particles and forces interact in the universe. But the theory crucially fails to explain how particles actually get their mass. Particles, or bits of matter, range in size and can be larger or smaller than atoms. Electrons, protons and neutrons, for instance, are the subatomic particles that make up an atom. Scientists believe that the Higgs boson is the particle that gives all matter its mass. AFP/Getty Images
An image of the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment. "The Higgs boson is the last missing piece of our current understanding of the most fundamental nature of the universe," Martin Archer, a physicist at Imperial College in London, told CNN. "Only now with the LHC [Large Hadron Collider] are we able to really tick that box off and say 'This is how the universe works, or at least we think it does'." Ben Brumfield/CNN
Higgs boson research takes place at the Large Hadron Collider -- a circular tunnel located 100 meters (328 feet) underground. It uses a particle accelerator to collide protons at extreme speeds. By combining their data, researchers found that there are different ways to produce a Higgs boson, and different ways for a Higgs boson to decay to other particles. CERN
British physicist Peter Higgs, right, speaks with Belgian physicist Francois Englert at a press conference at Geneva's CERN facility in 2012. Higgs and Englert shared the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for describing an explanation for why particles have mass. They independently published papers on this topic in 1964. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images/File
CERN's Globe of Science and Innovation exhibition center and surface buildings, which provide access to the Large Hadron Collider, can be seen near Geneva, Switzerland. CERN Director General Rolf Heuer said, "There is much benefit in combining the results of large experiments to reach the high precision needed for the next breakthrough in our field. By doing so, we achieve what for a single experiment would have meant running for at least 2 more years." CERN
Teams from ATLAS and CMS Collaborations combined their research to obtain their results. "Combining results from two large experiments was a real challenge as such analysis involves over 4,200 parameters that represent systematic uncertainties," said CMS Spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi. "With such a result and the flow of new data at the new energy level at the LHC, we are in a good position to look at the Higgs boson from every possible angle." CERN
The particle accelerator magnets of the LHC are shown at the underground test facility at CERN near Geneva. Many scientists dislike the term "God particle," even though it's become popular in the media. The nickname came from the title of a book by Leon Lederman, who reportedly wanted to call it the "Goddamn Particle" since it was so hard to find. Barcrfot Media /Landov
In the preface to a 2014 book, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking wrote he was worried that Higgs boson might turn unstable and lead to the end of everything. The "universe could undergo catastrophic vacuum decay, with a bubble of the true vacuum expanding at the speed of light," Hawking wrote. "This could happen at any time and we wouldn't see it coming." Not to worry too much. Hawking added that such a scenario would require a "particle accelerator that ... would be larger than Earth, and is unlikely to be funded in the present economic climate." RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images