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Christine Nattrass | USLHC | USA

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Tour a particle collider

This weekend I’ll be headed up to Long Island, where I’ll be one of the volunteers for the Brookhaven National Laboratory Summer Sundays public tours of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.  It’s free and no reservations are required.  Details are available here.  I’d recommend it to anyone interested in particle accelerators.

The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) is a little over a kilometer in diameter.  By comparison, the LHC is about 8.5 kilometers in diameter.  The top center of mass energy at RHIC is 500 GeV for proton-proton collisions and 200 GeV for heavy ion collisions, about 1/28th of the top LHC energies.  While the LHC can collide protons at the top energy in the world, RHIC is the only machine that can collide polarized protons.  Currently RHIC can collide heavy ions at the highest energy in the world – until this fall, when we expect our first heavy ion collisions at the LHC.  RHIC can produce collisions at center of mass energies as low as 7 GeV.  Additionally, RHIC can collide deuterons with gold.  With RHIC and the LHC combined, we can study different regions of the phase diagram of nuclear matter.

There are two main experiments still taking data at RHIC, STAR and PHENIX.  (I was on STAR as a PhD student; I am now a member of PHENIX.)  During the tours, you’ll be able to see part of the collider tunnel and both the STAR and PHENIX experiments.  You’ll be guided by physicists working on the collider and on STAR and PHENIX.  (I will be giving tours of the PHENIX experiment.)

If you’ve never seen an accelerator or a particle physics experiment and you’re in the area, I’d strongly recommend you make the trip out to Long Island.  Hope to see you on Sunday!

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