Getting ready to run NOvA

Mike Lindgren

Mike Lindgren, head of the Particle Physics Division, wrote this column.

At the end of the summer of 2012, I spent two weeks in northern Minnesota working with people from the University of Minnesota, Argonne National Laboratory and PPD who were busy building the first of 28 sections of the NOvA far detector. Yesterday saw the installation of the last of those sections. In the past 18 months, everyone involved has accomplished an incredible amount of work, safely and on schedule.

The Minnesota crew have been filling the detector with 50,000 gallons of liquid scintillator every week, and 26 of the 500-ton sections are now filled. On the Fermilab home front, members of the NOvA project have placed underground the smaller near detector, assembled in the CDF building. It is now comfortably situated in its new abode near the MINOS and MINERvA detectors and is ready to be filled and instrumented.

Much of the far detector is already reading out data, and scientists even recently saw their first neutrinos from Fermilab. The crew installing electronics and photodetectors is working rapidly to complete the remaining sections. As they progress, more of the detector comes alive. As it does, the quality of the project team’s work becomes evident, with each newly instrumented section adding data to the others almost immediately. The project will wrap up the construction and commissioning of both near and far detectors this year, leaving us with a powerful new tool for neutrino science.

In the meantime, NOvA is turning its focus to excellent operations.

Planning for the experiment run began a long time ago. PPD has been working with the experimental collaboration for years to commission the prototype detector on the surface and to iron out the inevitable kinks one finds when starting to run such a massive detector. The operations crew in Ash River, Minn., is in place, and Fermilab operations teams are looking forward to running and maintaining the near detector, as well as making repairs to the far detector as needed.

Another mark of progress that will soon be apparent to Wilson Hall’s visitors is a new control room on the atrium level. Once it is complete, members of Fermilab’s neutrino and muon experiments will be able to run their detector operations in this new facility. Until then, NOvA members will continue monitoring shifts in the current 12th-floor neutrino control room.

With the accelerator running capably and the computing needs well-handled, PPD is looking forward to working with the collaboration to successfully complete the NOvA project. The exciting part will come when the experiment is running. Then we can extract outstanding physics for the rest of the decade.

The graphic shows the status of the NOvA installation as of Feb. 24. The last of the NOvA far detector’s 28 blocks was installed on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Image: NOvA Collaboration