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Last Updated: Wednesday September 10 2008 12:31 GMT

In pics: Powerful experiment powered up

ALICE inner tracking system at CERN

Scientists in Switzerland have powered up a huge machine and begun what could be the world's most powerful experiment...

the LHC (large hadron collider) in its tunnel

It's being carried out in a machine called a Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and could help answer some big questions... like how the universe began.

LHC in its tunnel

The machine is inside a 17-mile long tunnel, buried deep underground on the border of France and Switzerland.

the giant magnet Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) being placed underground in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC)

It cost five billion pounds, and took 20 years to build...

the last of 1746 superconducting magnets being lowered into the LHC tunnel via a specially constructed pit

And contains more than 1,000 huge magnets!

scientists at the CERN's control center

Scientists powered it up for the first time on Wednesday.

Scientists applauding

And so far they say their tests are going well.

scientists look at computer screens showing traces on the Atlas experiment of the first protons

They say the first beam of particles has already travelled the whole way round the pipe...

collision of two protons

When the particles are whizzing around fast enough, the scientists will smash them into each other... and see what happens!