The eyes of the physics community are collectively fixed upon Illinois today, where, later this afternoon, researchers at Fermilab will shut down the Tevatron
particle accelerator... for good. That's right -- the world's second-largest collider is being laid to rest, after a remarkable 25-year run that was recently halted due to budgetary constraints. Earlier this year, Fermilab's scientists and a group of prominent physicists pleaded with the government to keep the Tevatron running until 2014, but the Energy Department ultimately determined that the lab's $100 million price tag was too steep, effectively driving a nail through the accelerator's subterranean, four-mile-long coffin. First activated in 1985, the Tevatron scored a series of subatomic breakthroughs over the course of its lifespan, including, most notably, the discovery of the so-called top quark in 1995. Its groundbreaking technology, meanwhile, helped pave the way for CERN's Large Hadron Collider
, which will now pursue the one jewel missing from the Tevatron's resume -- the Higgs boson. Many experts contend that the collider could've gone on to achieve much more, but its ride will nonetheless come to an inglorious end at 2PM today, when Fermilab director Pier Oddone oversees the Tevatron's last rites. "That will be it," physicist Gregorio Bernardi told the Washington Post
. "Then we'll have a big party."