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In this issue:
People: Jesse Wodin Takes it Underground
Public Lecture Next Tuesday: Cosmic Accelerators
New Noon Cross Training Class
Around SLAC New Mexico: WIPP

SLAC Today

Wednesday - June 17, 2009

People: Jesse Wodin Takes it Underground

SLAC physicist Jesse Wodin performing maintenance on the EXO cryostat chamber. (Image courtesy of Jesse Wodin.)

SLAC physicist Jesse Wodin has something of a long commute. To get to work, Wodin has to fly to El Paso, Texas; drive 160 miles to Carlsbad, New Mexico; drive another 26 miles into the desert and then take a five-minute elevator underground.

All of this is to get to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico, a Department of Energy storage site carved from gargantuan salt beds 2,150 feet beneath the New Mexico desert. The site, which is used primarily to store nuclear waste, is home to the Enriched Xenon Observatory, an international collaboration to detect rare subatomic events in a giant tank of super-chilled liquid xenon.

Why so far out of the way? Because bombardment from natural radiation could disturb the xenon in the EXO detectors and overshadow the events researchers are hoping to observe, the experiment has to be carried out in a well-sheltered environment. The thick-walled salt caverns at WIPP will act as a natural shield, keeping background noise low and making sure that the sought-after signal isn't drowned out by incidental events. EXO researchers will start collecting data at the end of the year.  Read more...

(Photo - public lecture poster)

Public Lecture Next Tuesday: Cosmic Accelerators

Next Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Panofsky Auditorium, SLAC astrophysicist Stefan Funk will present "Cosmic Accelerators: Engines of the Extreme Universe."

The Universe is home to numerous exotic and beautiful phenomena, some of which can generate almost inconceivable amounts of energy. While the night sky appears calm, it is populated by colossal explosions, jets from supermassive black holes, rapidly rotating neutron stars, and shock waves of gas moving at supersonic speeds. These accelerators in the sky boost particles to energies far beyond those we can produce on earth. New types of telescopes, including the Fermi Gamma-ray Telescope orbiting in space, are now discovering a host of new and more powerful accelerators. Please come and see how these observations are revising our picture of the most energetic phenomena in the Universe. The talk is free and open to all.

New Noon Cross Training Class

The Stanford Health Improvement Program, or HIP, is offering a summer cross-training fitness class at SLAC for experienced exercisers. The class will meet Mondays and Wednesdays, June 22 through August 26, 12:00–1:00 p.m. outside Building 27. For details and registration information, see the full announcement.

(Photo - underground at WIPP)
The WIPP workshop. (Photo by Lance Lougée.)

Around SLAC New Mexico: EXO at WIPP

It's a site with working conditions that would turn filet mignon into beef jerkey, according to SLAC Assistant Fire Marshall/Emergency Management Coordinator Lance Lougée, and also the home of some extraordinarily sensitive SLAC research equipment. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico boasts half-mile-deep caverns, ubiquitous, finely-ground salt and a clean room housing the Enriched Xenon Observatory. (See also "Jesse Wodin Takes it Underground," above.)

(Photo - underground at WIPP)
A 180-degree view with SLAC safety systems engineer Frank O'Neill in the the EXO area. Heavy containers holding EXO equipment and support materials sit on blocks to prevent sinking into the salt-laden floor. (Photo by Lance Lougée.)

Lougee visited WIPP in May for a visit and safety survey. He shot these eye-popping photos with surprisingly less-than-professional equipment.

"Because of all of the fine salt I did not take my good camera down there," Lougée said. "Those images were created on my iPhone."

Frank O'Neill and Jesse Wodin stand in an illuminated WIPP tunnels in this 270-degree view. (Photo by Lance Lougée.)


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