Big Magnet Glitch at World's Top Particle Accelerator

Could failure delay the intended start-up of CERN's Large Hadron Collider next spring?

3 min read

Officials at CERN, near Geneva, believe they have found a solution to the latest hitch in the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a state-of-the-art particle accelerator that straddles the Franco-Swiss border. That was the upshot of a two-day review held the last week of April at CERN to find a way forward following a major failure during a high-pressure test on critical components of the machine in March. The mishap casts a pall on a situation that otherwise seemed to be all-systems-go.

The LHC is a 27-kilometer-long circular tunnel designed to collide proton beams. Scientists hope that the products of those collisions will lead to better understanding of matter and the universe. The beams are directed through the tunnels by 1700 superconducting magnet assemblies, and it was a small but important subset of these—roughly eight 35-meter-long linear assemblies of focusing magnets called inner triplets—that ran into trouble.

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Two men fix metal rods to a gold-foiled satellite component in a warehouse/clean room environment

Technicians at Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems facilities in Redondo Beach, Calif., work on a mockup of the JWST spacecraft bus—home of the observatory’s power, flight, data, and communications systems.

NASA

For a deep dive into the engineering behind the James Webb Space Telescope, see our collection of posts here.

When the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) reveals its first images on 12 July, they will be the by-product of carefully crafted mirrors and scientific instruments. But all of its data-collecting prowess would be moot without the spacecraft’s communications subsystem.

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