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Christine Nattrass | USLHC | USA

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CERN at night

It’s 5:38 AM.  Do you know where we physicists are?

Right now I’m on a test beam shift for the ALICE electromagnetic calorimeter (EMCal).  The test beam delivers particles at a fixed momentum – right now a mixture of 60% electrons and 40% pions at 10 GeV/c.  We have a miniature version of our EMCal, 64 towers (8×8) complete with read out electronics.  It’s positioned in front of the beam line so that we can measure the response of the EMCal to these particles.  We move the beam around on the detector so that we can see the response of each tower to the beam.  We also try different momenta.

We have about a week to use the test beam and we want to make the most of our time, so we take shifts around the clock.  This is where I am right now:

The building to the right – the barracks – is where we sit when we take data.  Our little detector is to the left, behind the large cement blocks.  The cement blocks are there to shield people in the hall from radiation from the beam.  The beam comes from the far end of the hall.  The cables take data from our detector to the barracks.

And we are not alone – there are several other groups using data from the test beam and doing other experiments right now.  The lab that never sleeps.  Our test beam comes from the Super Proton Synchrotron – once the highest energy accelerator in the world and now both the injection source for the LHC and the beam source for multiple ongoing experiments.

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