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Local News

Electromagnet makes its final move

Fermilab experiment will study muons

BATAVIA – Fermilab scientist Adam Lyon was busy snapping pictures Wednesday as workers helped move the 50-foot-wide circular electromagnet into place in its new home.

“This is exciting,” Lyon said. “This is only the beginning.”

The move marked the final trek for the 17-ton magnet, which attracted attention last summer on its 3,200-mile journey from Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York to Fermilab.

The attention the magnet garnered surprised Fermilab staff.

“We didn’t think it was going to have that sort of rock star quality,” Lyon said.

The magnet is the centerpiece of Fermilab’s new Muon g-2 experiment, which will study the properties of elusive subatomic particles called muons.

The ring was built at Brookhaven National Laboratory in the 1990s for a similar experiment, one which found hints of new physics beyond what scientists have observed. A muon is a negatively charged particle, similar to an electron, but about 200 times heavier. Muons fall into the class of particles known as leptons.

Fermilab will conduct a similar experiment with the most powerful beam of muons in the world. Lyon is in charge of the computing and software for the Muon g-2 experiment.

“We want to very precisely study the properties of muons,” Lyon said. “How much muons wobble depends on what is happening around them.”

Scientists think that this deviation might be due to the presence of heavy, undiscovered particles or hidden subatomic forces.

“Perhaps we will discover new particles that are affecting muons,” Lyon said.

Through the experiment, scientists hope to discover more about muons.

“We are not really sure what purpose muons have in the universe,” Lyon said. “We don’t think anything is made out of muons.”

The experiment is expected to start taking data in late 2016 or early 2017, Lyon said.

“There is still a lot of work to do,” he said.

Mike McEvoy of St. Charles, a graduate student at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, has also been working on the experiment. McEvoy said he envisions the experiment will lead to other experiments and a better understanding of physics.

Fermilab research associate Mandy Rominsky said the Muon g-2 experiment “represents a step forward in Fermilab’s future.”

Fermilab has made its share of discoveries over the years. In 1995, physicists at Fermilab announced the discovery of the top quark. The discovery was made through Fermilab’s Tevatron accelerator, which shut down in 2011.

The top quark is the heaviest known elementary particle observed in nature. Quarks are one of the fundamental building blocks of matter in the universe.

“Fermilab is alive and kicking,” she said.

More information about the experiment is available by going to

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