Last September, work began on a new particle accelerator in the small Russian town of Dubna, just outside of Moscow, slated for completion in 2016. Dubbed NIKA, it is intended to complement Switzerland’s Large Hadron Collider — which aims to discover more subatomic particles, most notably the Higgs boson — to investigate the process by which such particles first appeared by recreating the conditions of the Big Bang.
With so many eyes on the LHC these days, most news outlets missed that announcement. Even less well-known is the fact that that back in the late 1980s, the USSR started building what would have been the largest particle accelerator in the world in a town called Protvino.
The proton accelerator was known by its Russian acronym, UNK, and was the brainchild of scientists at Russia’s Institute for High Energy Physics.
While some progress had been made by 1996, the collapse of the Soviet Union and subsequent economic difficulties put the kibosh on the collider, thanks to funding cuts.
Today, the site is largely deserted, and it costs Russia roughly 80 million rubles ($2.7 million) a year to keep it pumped dry of ground water. It has also become something of a “tourist spot” for self-proclaimed urban explorers. That’s where this impressive collection of photographs were taken, a striking testament to what might have been.
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