Scientists at CERN had said all along that they planned to activate the Larger Hadron Collider this summer. Now it looks like they’ll slide in just before the official end of the season. The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, aimed at unlocking secrets of the universe, will be launched on September 10 [Reuters].
“We’re finishing a marathon with a sprint,” said project leader Lyn Evans. “It’s been a long haul, and we’re all eager to get the LHC research program under way” [San Jose Mercury News].
Indeed, much still needs to happen in order to the meet the launch date. This weekend, physicists are testing the Super Proton Synchrotron, a separate accelerator built to produce the protons for the LHC’s collisions. This particle injector must be timed perfectly as it fires high-energy protons into the main 17-mile-around ring.
And now that the components have reached super-cool temperatures, CERN’s engineers can gradually turn up the energy levels. In September, the first protons to circle the entire ring will have a relatively modest energy of 450 billion electron volts. Once the physicists and engineers have learned to drive their new machine and have achieved stable colliding beams at that energy, they will ramp up the energy to 5 trillion electron volts — unexplored territory [The New York Times].
Once winter comes, though, the LHC will shut down and the fun will have to wait until spring—after spending $8 billion to build the accelerator, CERN needs to save on the heating bills.
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