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The LHC Is Starting Another Year Of High-Energy Physics

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The LHC Is Starting Another Year Of High-Energy Physics

Postby sunnyd » Tue May 23, 2017 4:54 pm

Story :

Believe it or not, particle physics has a season, just like baseball. Running a massive particle collider takes a lot of energy, so operators schedule downtime for periods when local energy demand tends to be high. For Brookhaven's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, located on Long Island, that means summer air-conditioning season is to be avoided. For CERN's Large Hadron Collider, demand for winter heating is what sets the seasons.

And, as those in the Northern Hemisphere may have noted, the winter is now over. It's particle season again, and today marks the first stable proton beams of 2017 in the LHC.

The 2016/2017 winter break was much shorter than the two-year downtime that saw the LHC upgraded to handle collisions at energies of 13 Tera-electronVolts. Still, the people who run the hardware use the winter breaks to do maintenance and typically some minor upgrades. So, each spring, they go through the process of recommissioning the hardware and making sure it's all working properly before starting any collisions.

The process apparently went smoothly, since the first declaration of stable beams was made earlier today. Befitting the tentative nature of the restart, the beams were relatively small. Each of the collider's two "beams" is actually made of bunches of protons smushed together, and the LHC is capable of handling a beam with over a thousand bunches. Today's beams had only three bunches in each. So, while the LHC's four detectors are taking data, it's only a small amount at the moment; operators will ramp up the number of bunches over the coming weeks.

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