Big Bang experiment to restart in September

February 10th, 2009 - 4:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Large Hadron ColliderLondon, Feb 10 (IANS) The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is to begin firing its proton beams once again at the end of September after being shut down abruptly in the midst of recreating conditions in the moments after the Big Bang.

“The new schedule foresees first beams in the LHC at the end of September this year, with collisions following in late October. A short technical stop has also been foreseen over the Christmas period,” the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) confirmed in a statement Monday.

The LHC has been hailed as a scientific accomplishment but the experiment to understand how the universe came to acquire its current shape had to be halted after the $5.4 billion machine developed a snag Sep 19, 2008 - just nine days after experiments began.

The CERN said Monday the experiment will run through to autumn next year, ensuring that scientists have enough data to carry out their first new physics analyses and have results to announce in 2010.

The Geneva-based body said technical specialists were of the opinion that the new schedule is tight but realistic. “The schedule we have now is without a doubt the best for the LHC and for the physicists waiting for data,” said CERN Director General Rolf Heuer.

“It is cautious, ensuring that all the necessary work is done on the LHC before we start-up, yet it allows physics research to begin this year.” This new schedule represents a delay of six weeks with respect to the previous schedule, which foresaw the LHC “cold at the beginning of July”.

CERN said the delay has been caused by factors such as implementation of a new enhanced protection system for the busbar and magnet splices; installation of new pressure-relief valves to reduce the collateral damage in case of a repeat incident; application of more stringent safety constraints; and scheduling constraints associated with helium transfer and storage.

“The enhanced protection system measures the electrical resistance in the cable joints (splices) and is much more sensitive than the system existing on 19 September,” it added.

CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics, has 20 member-states. Six countries - India, Israel, Japan, Russia, the US and Turkey - and two international organisations have observer status.

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