The moment the ALICE Collaboration have been waiting for has arrived. Today, the LHC announced that collisions of Lead ions are finally underway. We can at last begin studies on the curious quark gluon plasma, as our “mini-bang” factory recreates the extreme environment of the early universe in 10^-22 second microcosms. I cannot begin to describe the excitement it has generated in the community. We are thrilled.
The image above shows the tracks from one of the collisions propagating the detector, reconstructed using the High Level Trigger as the data was being taken. As you can see, the analysis challenge is much greater with Lead than with protons, if only for the density of tracks that need to be identified. It is here that the ALICE detector gets to shine – nearly 20 subsystems will work together to measure and unravel information from the events, so that we can know as much as possible about what is happening. This is what ALICE was built for.
My own journey with ALICE is drawing to a close, as my thesis nears completion and I prepare for the next stage in my life. However, for those that remain involved with ALICE, the story is just beginning. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to play a small part in such an exciting piece of history. I look forward to reading the papers that will come from this unique data, and that could change the face of science, for years to come.
Keep your eyes on the ALICE website for more images and any further news.