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LHC now targeted for "late 2009" start-up

Here we go again. Giving doomsayers yet more time to predict the end of the Earth, the perpetually delayed restart of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has once again been pushed back. CERN, the European lab for particle physics that manages the mega particle accelerator, has nudged the start-up from this summer to some point later in the year at the earliest. The lab is still dealing with repercussions from a September electrical malfunction that put the kibosh on the collider's operation shortly after its initial start-up.

According to CERN, some of the magnets in the LHC's 17-mile- (27-kilometer-) long tunnel will not be ready for testing until September; the lab had previously said it planned to have the collider operating by the end of June. CERN's top brass are set to meet Monday to decide on an advisory panel's recommendations for a repair-and-restart timeline that would have the LHC running by the end of the year.*

Assuming the LHC is brought online by the end of the year as proposed, it will not be going full throttle. As previously planned, the collider will ease into operation with a period of reduced-energy running. Under the panel's recommendations, the LHC would run at an energy of five trillion electron-volts (five TeV) per beam, down from its design energy of seven TeV, until fall 2010.

"CERN’s priority for 2009 is to get collision data for the experiments, but with caution as the guiding principle," Steve Myers, the lab's director for accelerators who chaired the advisory workshop, said in a statement. "The recommendations made to the CERN management are cautious, while achieving the goal of running this year."

*UPDATE (2/9/2009): CERN management did approve the recommendations today, stating that the "new schedule foresees first beams in the LHC at the end of September this year, with collisions following in late October.... ensuring that the experiments have adequate data to carry out their first new physics analyses and have results to announce in 2010."

Diagram of LHC: ©CERN

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