Whoooah, we're halfway there...

Construction on Brookhaven's National Synchrotron Light Source II (NSLS-II) -- which will allow scientists to explore everything from fuel cell catalysts and soil samples to molecules vital for human life -- has passed the 50-percent completion mark.

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The NSLS-II construction site

Work on the half-mile electron racetrack began in 2009 and is now more than a year ahead of schedule. In addition, conventional construction -- which covers everything from the roof and concrete floors to the plumbing and electricity -- is now complete on the first fifth of the ring. This milestone gives the green light for scientists and engineers to start installing the giant accelerator's innards. A precision-aligned girder holding the first of the machine's 826 magnets will soon be mounted in the accelerator tunnel, where they will eventually guide electrons as they zip around the ring at close to the speed of light.

NSLS-II's first girder -- a 14-foot, 8-ton structure holding multiple magnets -- being transferred from the assembly hall to the accelerator ring.

In 2015, NSLS-II will open its doors -- and its ultra-bright beams of x-ray, infrared, and ultraviolet light -- to thousands of researchers around the world in the fields of biology and medicine, material and chemical sciences, geoscience and environmental science, and nanoscience.

It will be the successor to Brookhaven's currently operating light source -- NSLS, home to two Nobel Prizes in the last decade and a heap of basic and applied research, ranging from the analysis of comet dust to the study of tuberculosis. But as the original facility ages, scientists want to probe even smaller, subtler details of their samples with more intense, better-focused light. NSLS-II will meet this demand, producing x-rays 10,000 times brighter than the current NSLS.

You can watch NSLS-II take shape live (or through time lapse) from one of four webcams positioned around the site.

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