Broken magnets put particle collider in limbo.
Broken magnets at CERN will need to be replaced.Broken magnets at CERN will need to be replaced.M. Brice/CERN
Details of last month's accident at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's premier particle accelerator, are emerging — and confirm that the machine will not restart before late May or early June 2009.
Officials at CERN, Europe's particle-physics laboratory near Geneva, Switzerland, say that the time is needed to overhaul a sector of the 27-kilometre-long machine, after an electrical failure on 19 September caused some 6 tonnes of ultra-cold liquid helium to leak into its tunnel. A preliminary report issued on 16 October says that as many as 29 of the nearly 10,000 magnets used to guide the accelerator's proton beam will need to be replaced. Further magnets may need to be removed and inspected, and modifications must also be made to prevent future accidents. "It's a serious incident," says James Gillies, a spokesman for the laboratory.