Muon magnet's moment has arrived
The Muon g-2 experiment has begun its search for phantom particles with its world-famous and well-traveled electromagnet
Andre Salles for Fermilab
6/1/2017 11:15 AM
The Muon g-2 experiment, located at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has begun its quest for those insights. This month, the 50-foot-wide superconducting electromagnet at the center of the experiment saw its first beam of muon particles from Fermilab’s accelerators, kicking off a three-year effort to measure just what happens to those particles when placed in a stunningly precise magnetic field. The answer could rewrite scientists’ picture of the universe and how it works. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are among the members of the Muon g-2 collaboration, comprising in all more than 150 scientists and engineers from more than 30 institutions in nine countries.
“The Muon g-2 experiment’s first beam truly signals the start of an important new research program at Fermilab, one that uses muon particles to look for rare and fascinating anomalies in nature,” comments Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “After years of preparation, I’m excited to see this experiment begin its search in earnest.”
Getting to this point was a long road for Muon g-2, both figuratively and literally. The first generation of this experiment took place at the U.S. DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York State in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The goal of the experiment was to precisely measure one property of the muon – the particles’ precession, or wobble, in a magnetic field. The final results were surprising, hinting at the presence of previously unknown phantom particles or forces affecting the muon’s properties.
The magnet took a barge south around Florida, up the Tennessee-Tombigbee waterway and the Illinois River, and was then driven on a specially designed truck over three nights to Fermilab. And thanks to a GPS-powered map online, it collected thousands of fans over its journey, making it one of the most well-known electromagnets in the world.
“Getting the magnet here was only half the battle,” adds Chris Polly, project manager of the Muon g-2 experiment. “Since it arrived, the team here at Fermilab has been working around the clock installing detectors, building a control room and, for the past year, adjusting the uniformity of the magnetic field, which must be precisely known to an unprecedented level to obtain any new physics. It’s been a lot of work, but we’re ready now to really get started.”
U. of I. scientists have played a major role in constructing the experiment, including a high precision timing system that will be used as the “heartbeat” of the experiment. The U. of I. team has also been involved in detector construction, the data acquisition system, and preparation for data-taking. Illinois team members include postdoctoral researchers Sabato Leo and Sudeshna Ganguly, graduate students Cristina Schlesier and Adithya Kuchibhotla, and several undergraduate students collaborating with Professors of Physics Kevin Pitts and Paul Debevec.
“It has been amazing to see this experiment go from a concept to reality, and now comes the data that we will analyze,” shares Ganguly.
Over the next few weeks the Muon g-2 team will test the equipment installed around the magnet, which will be storing and measuring muons for the first time in 16 years. Later this year, they will start taking science-quality data, and if their results confirm the anomaly first seen at Brookhaven, it will mean that the elegant picture of the universe that scientists have been working on for decades is incomplete, and that new particles or forces may be out there, waiting to be discovered.
“This is an exciting milestone. We have worked for many years to get to this point, but there is much more to do,” Pitts comments. “We are excited to find out what nature tells us. But to get to that answer will take several more years of hard work.”
Learn more about the Muon g-2 experiment here: Take a 360-degree tour of the Muon g-2 experiment hall here: http://360.fnal.gov/g-2.
The Muon g-2 experiment is supported by DOE’s Office of Science and the National Science Foundation.
Fermilab is America’s premier national laboratory for particle physics research. A U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science laboratory, Fermilab is located near Chicago, Illinois, and operated under contract by the Fermi Research Alliance LLC. Visit Fermilab’s website at http://www.fnal.gov and follow us on Twitter @Fermilab.
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