PEP-II Stepping Up: Photo Gallery
The final days of PEP-II operations are, in many respects, days like any other for the beam operators in SLAC's Main Control Center (MCC). Placid lighting, watchful, attentive operators, dozens and dozens of flickering monitors of all sizes—the MCC bears more than a passing resemblance to the bridge of a starship.
Despite the subdued lighting, however, occasional bursts of activity erupt—phone calls are made, knobs are turned, the watchful operators stand for a closer look at banks of monitors across the room. Their vigilance pays off with round-the-clock up times for both the accelerator and the PEP-II storage ring.
And these last days are full of new scientific opportunity as well. Diverging from the typical scenario of the last 8 years, when beam operators kept the center of mass energy of PEP-II at a steady 10.58 GeV, physicists are instead periodically creeping up the energy by small increments to collect the widest range of data possible. Every 40 minutes, more knobs are turned, and PEP-II stair-steps to higher and higher energies, a few MeV at a time.
Yet it's the beam operators who keep this amazingly complex operation in the delicate balance between having beams and having blank monitors. On last Friday's morning shift, Cliff Blanchette sat at the helm of the linac, while Karen Goldsmith kept PEP-II humming along. The beam operators, according to Blanchette, rotate from day to day, focusing on different parts of the machine to keep their skills sharp. But this balancing act requires more than knowing a little bit about everything, Blanchette says—"You have to know everything about everything."
Brad Plummer, SLAC Today, April 7, 2008