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Europe Sees the (Infinitely) Big Picture, and the Infinitely Small One, Too

Very Large-Scale Scientific Facilities in Europe

The VHF antenna at Tromsö, northern Norway, of the ionospheric radar EISCAT, in the dim glow of noon above the arctic circle.

One of the ways the CNRS contributes to the burgeoning European Research Area is by joining with its French, European, and international counterparts in the construction and use of large-scale scientific facilities. In this way researchers from every field (astronomers, biologists, physicists, chemists, and others) enjoy access to the highest performance facilities in a setting of international scientific excellence. Some examples of large instruments in which the CNRS is a European partner.

European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF), Grenoble, France
The ESRF is a source of synchrotron radiation used to produce very high intensity high energy hard X ray beams which allow researchers to probe the deeper secrets of both living and inert matter. Applications are numerous in solid state physics and crystallography, or the study of surfaces and matter under pressure, or further still for medical diagnosis and radiation therapy.
(France, Germany, Italy, United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands, Spain, Switzerland, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden, along with associated countries Portugal, Israel, Austria, and the Czech Republic)
The Laue-Langevin Institute (ILL), Grenoble, France
Founded in 1967, the Laue-Langevin Institute is a world leader in neutronic science and technology. Its neutron source and associated instruments provide information on the structure and dynamics of matter, of use to researchers in many fields such as physics, chemistry, materials science, biology, and others.
(France, Germany, United Kingdom, along with associated countries Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Russia)

Grenoble High Magnetic Field Laboratory (GHMFL), Grenoble, France

The High Magnetic Field Laboratory makes available to researchers a panoply of instruments for measuring magnetisation, nuclear and electronic magnetic resonance, and transport phenomena in intense magnetic fields, as well as making optical measurements in infrared and visible light. Experiments can be carried out at very low temperatures and/or very high pressures. The GHMFL's powerful magnets make possible the generation of fields up to 30 teslas, and they deliver more than 5000 hours of field annually.
(France, Germany)

The Millimetric Radioastronomy Institute (IRAM),
Plateau de Bure (Hautes-Alpes), France
and Pico Veleta (Sierra Nevada), Spain
At its offices and laboratories in Grenoble, IRAM processes signals from two major installations: a six-antenna interferometric array on the Plateau de Bure in the southern French Alps and a giant 30 meter telescope in Spain's Sierra Nevada. These two instruments are currently the world's most powerful detectors of radiation in the 1-3mm range, where scientists can best observe molecules and cold dust.
(France, Germany, Spain)


© CNRS Photothèque - Dominique Fontaine

The VHF antenna at Tromsö, northern Norway, of the ionospheric radar EISCAT

European Incoherent Scatter Scientific Association
(EISCAT), Grenoble, France
EISCAT's instrumentation is conceived for observation of the earth's upper atmosphere and ionosphere in the polar region, and in particular it is intended for the study of the interaction between solar winds and earth, an interaction of which the Aurora Borealis is one manifestation. EISCAT scientists are also working to determine the composition of the polar ionosphere – both in terms of temperature and ionic composition – and to map global ionospheric circulation above the polar cap.
(France, Germany, United Kingdom, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Japan)


© CNRS Photothèque

THEMIS is a magnetograph designed to measure the magnetic field of the detailed structures of the Sun's atmosphere. It is equipped with a vacuum tower telescope with a 90 cm opening and linked to two spectrographs.

Heliographic Telescope for the Study of Magnetism and Instabilities on the Sun (THEMIS), Izãna (Tenerife), Spain
The THEMIS solar telescope is used to produce accurate measurements of the polarisation of solar spectral lines with high spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution. Astronomers obtain images of the entire sun, including a map of the magnetic field and velocity along observation lines, which allows coordination of observations with other instruments and in particular the satellite SOHO. THEMIS also delivers high spatio-temporal measurement by spectroscopy, quantitative data on magnetic field vectors (intensity and direction) for various altitudes, and data on very small-scale concentration of the magnetic field.
(France, Italy, Spain)

© CNRS Photothèque - Laurence Médard

Underneath view of a few of the 200 heliostats making up THEMIS, showing the structure of the mirror supports.

Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
The Large Electron Positron Collider (LEP) will give way in 2006 to the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). With its capacity to collide particles at energies never before attained, the new accelerator will provide physicists with their deepest look yet inside the structure of the atom, while it recreates the conditions which reigned in the universe 10-12 seconds after the Big Bang when the temperature was 1016 °C. Four major experiments are already being prepared: ALICE (A Large Ion Collider Experiment), ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC Apparatus), CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid), and LHC-B (a study of CP violations in B mesons at the LHC).
(France, CERN, an international organisation)

European Gravitational Observatory (EGO)
Pisa (Italy)

The EGO consortium is putting the finishing touches on the VIRGO antenna and setting it up to detect gravitational waves from cosmic sources such as supernovas or neutron star couples. The antenna will measure the phase difference between two lasers beamed down an immense (3 kilometer) Michelson interferometer. VIRGO is similar to interferometric detectors being set up in the United States (LIGO), Germany (GEO), Japan (TAMA) and Australia (ACIGA).
(France, Italy)




Nathalie Godet
Direction des études et des programmes (DEP)

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