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On the morning of Wednesday, 10 September, 2008, the first particle beam was successfully sent around the full circuit of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The new science resulting from this grand experiment will turn up in the coming weeks and months, but what Wednesday's event did prove was that the world's largest machine works. Part of that machine is the cathedral-sized Atlas detector, one of two general-purpose detectors (the other is the Compact Muon Solenoid, or CMS) in the LHC.
Atlas's development and construction benefited from a great amount of UK involvement, particularly that of the Science & Technology Facilities Council. Pictured above is the very first image from Atlas showing the particle beam passing through.
Professor Jon Butterworth of University College London heads up the UK's involvement in the Atlas detector. "This is the biggest high of my career so far," he told ZDNet.co.uk after the first successful beam circulation in the LHC, which took just under an hour to complete. "I didn't think they'd do it so quickly and smoothly."
"This is the first time [the LHC] has functioned as a single machine," Butterworth noted. He added that, although no new science as such came from Wednesday's events, the machine "shows a lot of cutting-edge technology, so in that sense it is a breakthrough".
"We'll probably be getting science out of this thing for 20 years," Butterworth said.