The high altitude Laboratory ‘Refuge des Cosmiques’ is being declared a Historic Site of the European Physical Society [EPS] later this month. Located on the slopes of the Col du Midi – near Mont Blanc – at 3,613 metres above sea level, the laboratory was designed to study cosmic rays and their potential applications for nuclear physics.
A plaque will be unveiled at the laboratory, on the morning of 23 July, detailing the location’s relevance to the history of physics. This recognition of the site is especially fitting this year, it being the 100th anniversary of Victor Franz Hess’ discovery of cosmic rays.
The ‘Refuge des Cosmiques’ was established in 1943 by the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, under the aegis of Louis Leprince-Ringuet, the noted French physicist, telecommunications engineer and science historian. The laboratory – powered by high-voltage electrical cables, suspended above the glacial ice – was subsequently inaugurated in 1946, in the presence of Irène Joliot-Curie, and remained in operation until 1955.
Looking back at the activities of the laboratory, Leprince-Ringuet said: “This is how up there, in really sporty conditions, with an electric cable, a local electricity power source, some electron counters, a small Wilson apparatus, we managed to study particles from cosmic radiation…”
The commemoration event will form one of a number of cosmic-ray related which are taking place in Chamonix on 23 July. The morning’s unveiling will be followed by a series of lectures covering cosmic rays at the refuge laboratory, cosmic collision simulation with the Large Hadron Collider and cosmic rays today; the latter of which will focus on the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer [AMS] mission of the International Space Station, for which the astronauts of the STS-134 mission, which installed the AMS device, will be present.
The EPS Historic Site programme acts to commemorate European places with special importance to the development and history of physics. For more information on the EPS Historic Site programme, please visit the EPS website.
More on the other events surrounding the commemoration ceremony can be found on the CERN Bulletin website.