By Jon Cartwright
Many of you will be wondering how the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has been getting on since last Wednesday’s celebrated “switch on”. Well, if you are willing to overlook one 30 tonne hitch, commissioning is still going well.
On the switch-on day itself, if for some reason you left the planet, the operations team managed to get proton bunches all the way around the LHC’s 27 km-long ring in both directions. But even though the media had trickled away by early evening, the LHC team didn’t stop ploughing ahead, as I discovered when I went to the control centre the morning after. By then they had already had an anticlockwise bunch endlessly circulating, albeit spread or “de-bunched” around most of the ring. To correct the de-bunching, the team initiated their radio-frequency systems, which by Friday had been successfully tuned in both frequency and phase.
Friday, unfortunately, also brought difficulties. A transformer weighing some 30 tonnes developed a short circuit, forcing the team to replace it. As I hear from Lyn Evans, the LHC project leader, the new transformer has been lifted into place and the electrical systems, which feed the vital cryogenics systems, should soon be back on line.
The good news, however, is that Evans is planning to try some low-energy collisions next week. Hang on to your hats.