Just to the left of the front gate of the Brookhaven National Laboratory, a shrink-wrapped 50-foot-wide, 14-ton electromagnetic ring sat waiting for the next leg of its 3,200-mile journey.
Around midnight Sunday, the ring -- which had been moved June 11 from inside the lab's accelerator complex -- was expected to leave Upton for the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, where more sophisticated equipment will allow for better use of the magnet.
The ring, which must be transported as a single unit, was to begin moving down the William Floyd Parkway to Smith Point County Marina in Shirley late last night into Monday, said Peter Genzer, a spokesman for Brookhaven Lab. Intersections were to be blocked as the ring moved past at a maximum speed of 10 mph.
"Any one intersection won't be blocked off for a long period of time and there are roads to get around it in that area," Genzer said. The entire trip to Illinois is expected to take between four to five weeks depending on the weather.
The Suffolk County Police Department is overseeing the drive. It is expected to take between four and six hours to get to Smith Point County Marina. The moving company Emmert International was also assisting.
The ring, which could be damaged if it moves even an eighth of an inch, was sitting outside Sunday. But officials at the lab said they were confident the superconducting coils inside it were safe and would not be affected by the weather.
"It's a big chunk of aluminum," Genzer said. "It's in place and very secure right now."
When the magnet arrives at Smith Point County Marina, it will be moved to a barge, then is expected to sail down the East Coast, up the Mississippi River and to the Des Plaines River before arriving at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois.
The magnet is used to study tiny subatomic particles. Project officials said that while the move is costing taxpayers about $3 million, building a new ring at the lab in Illinois would cost about ten times more.
Those interested in keeping tabs on the magnet throughout its journey can track it using the Fermilab website at Muon-g-2.fnal.gov/bigmove.