Inside an accelerator

Scientists at the Australian National University in Canberra are searching for traces of supernovae in the ocean. They are also researching how to make new elements to add to the periodic table.

Central to both these pursuits is a massive on-campus piece of kit known as the Heavy Ion Accelerator Facility (HIAF). The installation comprises two accelerators – machines that propel elementary particles to very high levels of energy – the first of which has been in operation since 1974.

To help people understand the work done at HIAF – and perhaps to inspire some of them to one day conduct their own research inside it – the university has just released an online virtual tour of the facility.

The tour – which can be found here – allows users to access 360-degree views of various sections of the accelerator buildings, including the control room, the ion sources, the massive controlling magnet, and the interior of the main accelerator itself.

The online resource also features potted interviews with several of the researchers who use and operate the equipment. All up, it’s a rare chance to see inside one of the world’s most important particle physics facilities, without having to go through the tiresome business of getting a PhD first.

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