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Anna Phan | USLHC | USA

View Blog | Read Bio

Visiting LHCb!

Warning for those on slow internet connections: this post contains quite a few large images
which may take a long time to load. Just be patient, I promise they’ll be worth the wait!

I’ve been blogging about LHCb for about eight months now, telling you all about the detector and the physics. If you’ve been following my posts from the start, you might recall that as well as being new to Quantum Diaries, I was also new to LHCb.

Why do I bring that fact up now? Combined with the timetable of the LHC (which operated between March and November last year), this has meant that while I could read about the detector, monitor the data taking and start analysing the recorded data, I had never actually been underground and seen the detector.

So when I found out that Kathryn Grim, of USLHC Communications, was taking a pair of videographers and photographers down, I asked to be part of the visit. Luckily, there was space for me and I had already passed all the necessary training and had all the required access privileges.

I was pretty excited about the visit, in addition to getting to see the detector I work with, the last LHC detector I saw was ATLAS, back in 2009 before any serious data taking had begun. And before that, I visited ATLAS and CMS during construction way back in 2007.

Why is this history important? Well, visiting LHCb is a history lesson of sorts. Unlike ATLAS and CMS, which are located in caverns especially built for the experiments, as seen the schematic map below, LHCb and ALICE reside in caverns which previously contained LEP detectors, DELPHI and L3.

As I’ve mentioned before, ALICE took advantage of that fact by incorporating the L3 magnet in its detector. LHCb took a different approach, simply disconnecting the DELPHI detector and moving it away from the beam line into an exhibition area behind concrete shielding. I didn’t have much time in the DELPHI part of the cavern as the videographers and photographers wanted to get straight to LHCb, but I was able to grab a couple of shots of the detector, one of which I include below…

So you may be wondering about the videographers and photographers Kathryn and I were accompanying underground (along with a couple of other LHCb colleagues). It was kind of confusing actually, there were two separate crews, each of which contained one videographer and one photographer. However, the focus of one team was the videographer and the focus of the other was the photographer.

Here on the left, I have a photo of the videographer, Steve Elkins, who was filming for a documentary. He had a accompanying crew member to assist with the filming and to take photos of the process for promotion. You can find out more about the upcoming documentary at his website.

In his words, “The film will be about questions, and the diverse routes to ask them. It will be about the struggles to lift the seemingly impenetrable veils of mystery from the intangible and transcendent, whether through bodies, machines, brains, or stars… It will involve the largest astronomy project in human history, Tuvan throat singers, a neuroscientist’s quest to actually photograph memories being formed in the brain, and the Kalacakra sand mandala ceremony overseen by the Dalai Lama in India, all told through the true story of a man running alone across Death Valley in average temperatures of 130 degrees fahrenheit.”

It sounds really intriguing and I look forward to seeing it.

Here on the right, I have a photo of the photographer, Enrico Sacchetti. You may be wondering why a photographer requires a videographer. It has to do with the camera he was using, a Phase One 645DF. From what I gathered, the company lent him the camera, on the condition that he film himself using it for promotional purposes.

You can find some of his previous photos of the LHC experiments on his website, which are quite nice. From what I saw on the preview screen on the camera though, the new ones will be spectacular.

That’s enough about the people on the visit; onto photos of the detector! I won’t bombard you with images of the whole detector, since they all look fairly similar, but instead, below, I’ll show you a few different unique views of certain components.

The top photo shows the view between the hadronic calorimeter and the muon system from below the detector, looking up towards the ceiling. You can see the beam pipe on the right of the photo. The left photo shows people working in the tracking system. The experiments use the LHC downtime to maintain their detectors. You can see that two of the tracking stations have been retracted, while one remains in position (the two left stations are the retracted ones). The right photo shows the dipole from the front, with a lot of safety tape and plastic covering the beam pipe. These are placed there during the maintenance period to protect the equipment. They will be removed before the start of data taking so they won’t interfere with the physics.


Pretty cool huh? I really enjoyed my visit and the unique opportunity to witness physics and art in action. I’ll leave you all now with the obligatory photo of me and the detector.