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Happy Birthday, synchrotron!


The particle accelerator Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron celebrates its birthday. Exactly 50 years ago, electrons completely circled the newly built ring accelerator DESY for the first time. This was the start of the particle acceleration era in Hamburg, which eventually developed the DESY research institute of the same name to Germany's largest accelerator centre, becoming a pioneer in technologies for particle detectors and experiments with synchrotron radiation.

It was on 25 February 1964, shortly before midnight, when the first particles repeatedly rounded the vacuum system of the about 300-metre long synchrotron. After two weeks of sometimes frustrating efforts by the accelerator team, everything went very quickly. The first electrons in the particle carrousel reached an energy of 2.5 gigaelectronvolts in about 8000 rounds, and already on the following day, it was possible to obtain 5 gigaelectronvolts (GeV); just about the designed final energy, which is one GeV higher.

Eventful years of operation followed, with all kinds of particle physics experiments and with the world's first characterisation studies of synchrotron radiation, its high value for research being first recognised at DESY. This was followed by several years as a pre-accelerator for the future large-scale particle accelerators DORIS, PETRA and HERA. Moreover, the machine is still in demand as a test beam source for the investigation of future detectors.

And what about the jubilarian? Even on its 50th birthday, the DESY accelerator reliably continues operation and makes 16 to 18 billion particles rotate at 6.3 GeV energy.

Source: Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY)