The night owls

The Large Hadron Collider never sleeps. Every night, physicists from all over the world work the owl shift to guide the collider and its enormous particle detectors safely from sunset to sunrise.

November 6, 2012 at 7:03am

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Looks like the LHC survived another night. I’m going to head home and begin the transition back to normal waking hours. Thanks for reading, and be sure to look for the full article in Symmetry magazine next week.

7:02am

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The LHC operator replacements have arrived.

6:50am

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They’re flipping some switches on the SPS access board, which indicates someone is down in the tunnel to look at that magnet.

6:45am

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Every morning, there is a meeting at the CCC where everyone goes over what happened with the LHC over the last 24 hours. They also plan for the next 24. It’s deserted now, but in just a couple hours it will be packed.

6:24am

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There’s still not much happening. Even the computer that announces messages has been quiet for some time. There is plenty of chatter as people pass on what happened during the night to their replacement.

6:20am

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You can see from the right graph how the luminosity (number of collisions) drops steadily the longer the LHC runs. Usually once it drops below a certain number, they dump the beam and fill the LHC with fresh particles. Because they can’t fill the LHC at all today, they’ll run these beams longer than normal, even if the luminosity dips quite low.

6:10am

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By the way, this is the 3266th run of the LHC ever. Last night was the 3265th run. 

5:59am

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CCC has it a lot better than ATLAS when it comes to coffee. They have a private kitchen complete with machines that make coffee from fresh beans. But I found this guy lurking in a back hallway.

5:54am

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Not everyone is on the 11 p.m. - 7 a.m. shift. Some replacements just arrived at the technical pod, where the next shift starts at 6 a.m.

5:53am

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I got a bit more creative and went upstairs to get the full shot of the CCC.