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Frank Simon | MPI for Physics | Germany

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Night Shifts at Fermilab

Fermilabs Meson Test Beam Facility at 2 in the morning.

Fermilabs Meson Test Beam Facility at 2 in the morning.

A break from giving lectures, talks and from attending meetings: Shifts at the CALICE experiment! I’m now at Fermilab near Chicago, a trip West for a change, after all my trips to Asia this year. Here, our calorimeter prototypes for the ILC are being tested in a particle beam, available at the Meson Test Beam Facility MTBF. Typically, we get 12 hours of beam per day, which means that by default we run from 6 am to 6 pm, so that nobody has to pull night shifts. However, for various reasons, such as lost beam time due to accelerator problems, time constraints from scheduled accelerator studies and so on, we’ve been given extra beam hours for the next few days. Of course, this is great news, since it allows us to actually complete our program in time. However, the bad part is that we are now scheduled to take data from 2 am to 6 pm every day. And I’m on the morning shift, so I started at 1:45 this morning.

The entrance to the experimental area: Safely interlocked, ready for beam!

The entrance to the experimental area: Safely interlocked, ready for beam!

Considering that Germany is 7 hours ahead of central time, it does not sound so bad. Still, it is surprisingly painful. Getting up in the middle of the night, and going to bed while it is light outside is never really easy… Plus, it totally disrupts the normal daily life… Dinner at 2 pm, beers at 3 pm? Doesn’t really feel right… Right now, I’m thinking about lunch… at 6:30 in the morning!

When I arrived at the test beam facility at 1:45, of course after confirming with the accelerator operators that we were really going to get beam at 2 am before getting out of bed, I made sure we were ready to go: The detectors up and running, the experimental area closed and interlocked (otherwise no beam can be delivered for obvious safety reasons).

Montior showing the FNAL Main Injector supercycle. We (MTest) are the first red bump on the left, a 4 second long beam extraction to our experimental area.

Monitor showing the Fermilab Main Injector supercycle. We (MTest) are the first red bump on the left, a 4 second long beam extraction to our experimental area.

And indeed, we got beam promptly at 2, and have been taking data happily since, without any serious complications. The picture on the right shows the one of the first few cycles of the Fermilab accelerator complex today with our experiment included, shown by the longish red bump on the left side of the display. Well, of course there are always some small problems, like our electronic log-book malfunctioning, causing all entries from yesterday to disappear… Resulting in a few moments of panic here, but we were able to recover it, luckily :-) .

The data we’ve taken so far is looking good, so it seems it was worth the pain. If things continue to go well here I hope I’ll be able to post some more details about what we are doing here, and what our data looks like.

Meanwhile, it is light outside, and catching a sunrise is always something I really like doing, even at a high energy physics lab.

Beginning sunrise outside the MBTF.

Beginning sunrise outside the MTBF.

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