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Giant Magnet Arrives At Fermilab, Achieves “Rock Star” Status

July 28, 2013
The tugboat Miss Katie pushes the Muon g-2 barge into the Rankin Lock on the Tennessee-Tombigbee Waterway in Mississippi. Image Credit: Darin Clifton / Ceres Barge

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online

The 50-foot-wide, 15-ton electromagnet, which became a national sensation during its move from New York to the Chicago area, has reached its final destination at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), according to various media reports.

The massive magnet, which will be used by Fermilab officials to study lightning-quick particles, traveled more than 3,000 miles over land and sea and received “a rock star’s welcome” at its new home, said Associated Press (AP) reporters Scott Eisen and Jason Keyser.

Fermilab plans to use the magnet as part of a physics experiment dubbed Muon g-2, which will analyze subatomic particles at a laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. It will be used to study the properties of muons, which are subatomic particles that live just over two millionths of a second. Chris Polly, manager of the project, told Eisen and Keyser the results could lead to new discoveries in particle physics.

“The hulking magnet is a hand-me-down from New York, where it was built in the 1990s with aluminum and steel by scientists at the Brookhaven National Lab on eastern Long Island,” the AP reporters said. “It has superconducting coils inside and, at the time it was built, was the largest electromagnet in the world.”

The electromagnet was no longer needed by scientists at the Brookhaven Lab, and while it cost approximately $3 million dollars to transport the massive device to Chicago, the cost of constructing a new magnet from scratch would have cost Fermilab ten times that much, according to a report published on the Huffington Post website.

The journey itself, which started in June, was quite eventful, Eisen and Keyser noted. At one point, inclement weather forced it to spend nearly a week on a Virginia dock, leading the crew traveling with it to spend much of their time at a nearby minor league baseball stadium. It was forced to outrun a tropical depression along the East Coast, and it sailed up the Mississippi River en route to Illinois.

During its travels, the magnet managed to draw crowds numbering in the thousands, as well as the attention of television news helicopters. It had its own Twitter hashtag (#bigmove) to help fans track its progress, and Fermilab set up a website with a GPS that the AP said became the facility’s most popular page. During the home stretch, the magnet was given a police escort, and all along the way the transport crew was able to avoid paying tolls.

The magnet arrived shortly after 4am local time on Friday, and Fermilab officials were scheduled to hold a community open house that also included magnet-themed experiments for youngsters. Unfortunately, the building where the electromagnet will be housed is currently still under construction. However, the AP said the electromagnet should be fully operational sometime next year.


Source: redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online



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