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The World's Most Powerful Particle Acclerator Turns On September 15


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CERN1 has announced that the first attempt to circulate a beam in the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be made on 10 September. This news comes as the cool down phase of commissioning CERN’s new particle accelerator reaches a successful conclusion. Television coverage of the start-up will be made available through Eurovision.

 

The LHC is the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, producing beams seven times more energetic than any previous machine, and around 30 times more intense when it reaches design performance, probably by 2010. Housed in a 27-kilometre tunnel, it relies on technologies that would not have been possible 30 years ago. The LHC is, in a sense, its own prototype.

 

Starting up such a machine is not as simple as flipping a switch. Commissioning is a long process that starts with the cooling down of each of the machine’s eight sectors. This is followed by the electrical testing of the 1600 superconducting magnets and their individual powering to nominal operating current. These steps are followed by the powering together of all the circuits of each sector, and then of the eight independent sectors in unison in order to operate as a single machine.

 

By the end of July, this work was approaching completion, with all eight sectors at their operating temperature of 1.9 degrees above absolute zero (-271°C). The next phase in the process is synchronization of the LHC with the Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS) accelerator, which forms the last link in the LHC’s injector chain. Timing between the two machines has to be accurate to within a fraction of a nanosecond. A first synchronization test is scheduled for the weekend of 9 August, for the clockwise-circulating LHC beam, with the second to follow over the coming weeks. Tests will continue into September to ensure that the entire machine is ready to accelerate and collide beams at an energy of 5 TeV per beam, the target energy for 2008. Force majeure notwithstanding, the LHC will see its first circulating beam on 10 September at the injection energy of 450 GeV (0.45 TeV).

 

Once stable circulating beams have been established, they will be brought into collision, and the final step will be to commission the LHC’s acceleration system to boost the energy to 5 TeV, taking particle physics research to a new frontier.

 

‘We’re finishing a marathon with a sprint,’ said LHC project leader Lyn Evans. ‘It’s been a long haul, and we’re all eager to get the LHC research programme underway.’

 

CERN will be issuing regular status updates between now and first collisions. Journalists wishing to attend CERN for the first beam on 10 September must be accredited with the CERN press office. Since capacity is limited, priority will be given to news media. The event will be webcast through http://webcast.cern.ch, and distributed through the Eurovision network. Live stand up and playout facilities will also be available.

 

A media centre will be established at the main CERN site, with access to the control centres for the accelerator and experiments limited and allocated on a first come first served basis. This includes camera positions at the CERN Control Centre, from where the LHC is run. Only television media will be able to access the CERN Control Centre. No underground access will be possible.

 

For further information and accreditation procedures: http://www.cern.ch/lhc-first-beam

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First beam in the LHC - accelerating science

Geneva, 10 September 2008. The first beam in the Large Hadron Collider at CERN1 was successfully steered around the full 27 kilometres of the world’s most powerful particle accelerator at 10h28 this morning. This historic event marks a key moment in the transition from over two decades of preparation to a new era of scientific discovery.

 

“It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans, “we can now look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.”

 

Starting up a major new particle accelerator takes much more than flipping a switch. Thousands of individual elements have to work in harmony, timings have to be synchronized to under a billionth of a second, and beams finer than a human hair have to be brought into head-on collision. Today’s success puts a tick next to the first of those steps, and over the next few weeks, as the LHC’s operators gain experience and confidence with the new machine, the machine’s acceleration systems will be brought into play, and the beams will be brought into collision to allow the research programme to begin.

 

Once colliding beams have been established, there will be a period of measurement and calibration for the LHC’s four major experiments, and new results could start to appear in around a year. Experiments at the LHC will allow physicists to complete a journey that started with Newton's description of gravity. Gravity acts on mass, but so far science is unable to explain the mechanism that generates mass. Experiments at the LHC will provide the answer. LHC experiments will also try to probe the mysterious dark matter of the universe – visible matter seems to account for just 5% of what must exist, while about a quarter is believed to be dark matter. They will investigate the reason for nature's preference for matter over antimatter, and they will probe matter as it existed at the very beginning of time.

 

“The LHC is a discovery machine,” said CERN Director General Robert Aymar, “its research programme has the potential to change our view of the Universe profoundly, continuing a tradition of human curiosity that’s as old as mankind itself.”

 

Tributes have been coming in from laboratories around the world that have contributed to today’s success.

 

“The completion of the LHC marks the start of a revolution in particle physics,” said Pier Oddone, Director of the US Fermilab. “We commend CERN and its member countries for creating the foundation for many nations to come together in this magnificent enterprise. We appreciate the support that DOE and NSF have provided throughout the LHC's construction. We in the US are proud to have contributed to the accelerator and detectors at the LHC, together with thousands of colleagues around the world with whom we share this quest.”

 

“I congratulate you on the start-up of the Large Hadron Collider,” said Atsuto Suzuki, Director of Japan’s KEK laboratory, “This is a historical moment.”

 

“It has been a fascinating and rewarding experience for us,” said Vinod C. Sahni, Director of India’s Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology, “I extend our best wishes to CERN for a productive run with the LHC machine in the years to come.”

 

“As some might say: ‘One short trip for a proton, but one giant leap for mankind!’ TRIUMF, and indeed all of Canada, is delighted to bear witness to this amazing feat,” said Nigel S. Lockyer, Director of Canada’s TRIUMF laboratory. “Everyone has been involved but CERN is to be especially congratulated for bringing the world together to embark on such an incredible adventure.”

 

In a visit to CERN shortly before the LHC’s start-up United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon said: “I am very honored to visit CERN, an invaluable scientific institution and a shining example what international community can achieve through joint efforts and contribution. I convey my deepest admiration to all the scientists and wish them all the success for their research for peaceful development of scientific progress.”

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Guest The Royal Society

The Royal Society has hailed the switching on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the Cern laboratory in Geneva as a major step in furthering our understanding of the universe around us. The particle accelerator, built at a cost of £4.4 billion, has been designed to recreate what happened at the birth of the Universe.

 

Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society said: "Science demands experimentation and some scientific challenges are so great that they demand a massive enterprise, in which thousands of researchers combine their efforts to achieve a common goal.

 

"This happened in astronomy with the Hubble Telescope, and in biology with the human genome project. And now it is happening in Physics. The Large Hadron Collider, which begins operations today, will be the largest experiment in human history."

 

It is hoped the LHC can shed light on how the universe was formed and on what it is made up of.

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