The Large Hadron Collider recently went offline, prompting engineers to start poking around for an explanation. The machine is 17-miles long, and hunting down a cause can be time consuming; it wasn’t long before the problem was found, though, and it was pretty unexpected. As it turns out, a weasel (or possibly a marten) made its way into the region and chewed through a power cable.
As you’d expect, the weasel did not survive the electrifying experience — its charred remains were found at the gnawed cable, making identification a tad difficult. “We had electrical problems, and we are pretty sure this was caused by a small animal,” said CERN head of press Arnaud Marsollier.
A status update on the machine was recently released, and it details an “electrical perturbation” caused by a “fouine.” The critter cause a short circuit on the 66kV transformer in point 8, according to the summary. The transformer connections were damaged, and all accelerators were damaged.
The status update also says that “most LHC magnets performed ‘Fast Aborts’” when the short circuit happened. The main circuits were checked and are all fine. Repairs are now being performed, and may take a few days, followed by testing to make sure there are no missed issues. Over all, it may be a couple weeks before the LHC is back up and running.