October 10, 2000

Window of Access to Tunnel and Detectors of World's Newest "Atom Smasher"

UPTON, NY - With the conclusion of the first physics run at Brookhaven National Laboratory's Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) - the world's newest and biggest particle accelerator for nuclear physics research - we are happy to announce that reporters and TV crews may once again gain access to portions of the RHIC accelerator tunnel and the detectors. This window of availability, during which reporters can see the chain of superconducting magnets that accelerate ions to nearly the speed of light, as well as the spectacular detectors that collect and analyze data when the ions collide, will last through the end of January 2001, when the next experimental run begins.

RHIC began colliding ions of gold atoms this past June. Its goal is to recreate a hot, dense form of matter that is believed to have last existed millionths of a second after the Big Bang, when the universe first formed some 13 billion years ago. The high temperatures and densities achieved in the collisions should, for a fleeting moment, allow quarks and gluons, which are normally held tightly together inside protons and neutrons, to exist "freely" in a soup-like plasma. By studying this plasma and how it cools and evolves into ordinary matter, scientsts will gain insights into the fundamental nature of matter. Scientists are now analyzing the data collected during RHIC's first run, and will be publishing results as they become available.

The 2.4-mile-circumference RHIC tunnel actually contains two separate accelerator rings, together composed of some 1,740 tubelike superconducting magnets. These magnets guide ions of gold atoms - gold nuclei that have been stripped of their electrons - around each of the circular rings in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light. The ions are then steered into collision at points where the two rings cross.

At four of these crossover locations, scientsts have built sophisticated detectors - two of them as large as houses - to detect the collsions and analyze the enormous volume of data generated as new particles stream out of each collision point. Each detector was built by an international collaboration of scientists and engineers, and incorporates some of the most elaborate electronic devices ever manufactured.

To set up a time to view and/or photograph the tunnel and detectors, or to set up interviews with RHIC scientists, please call one of the media representatives listed above, or contact Brookhaven's Media and Communications Office at 631 344-2345.

For more information, see: http://www.rhic.bnl.gov/

The U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory creates and operates major facilities available to university, industrial and government personnel for basic and applied research in the physical, biomedical and environmental sciences and in selected energy technologies. The Laboratory is operated by Brookhaven Science Associates, a not-for-profit research management company, under contract with the U.S. Department of Energy.