21 August 2012
Gabriel Penn, Nuffield Bursary student, and Dr Paolo Baesso, Post doctoral researcher in the Particle Physics group, get ready to recreate Hess's experiment.
Image by Dr Helen Heath
This remarkable feat was recreated at the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta last week when a group of A-level students working with the Bristol University physics department took to the skies with a cosmic ray detector system they assembled themselves. The students, on a summer placement funded by Nuffield Foundation Science Bursary, flew to a height of 3.5 km to take data - high enough to need a scarf and gloves on a summer's day.
Back on the ground, visitors to the Balloon Fiesta were able to see for themselves how the LHC is used to answer fundamental questions about the building blocks of the universe thanks to the interactive exhibit which was brought to Bristol by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
PhD students from the University of Bristol and the London universities who have worked with CERN on the Higgs boson discovery were also on hand to answer questions and inspire the next generation of scientists.
Within the STFC tent at the Balloon Fiesta, there were hands-on exhibits such as a spinning ball particle accelerator, which showed how the 1,600 superconducting magnets within the LHC can control and accelerate a subatomic particle; and the cosmic ray detector, which allowed visitors to see how frequently a subatomic particle passes through the equipment.
Dr David Cussans from the School of Physics at Bristol University said "Hess gave us our first glimpse into an invisible world, with apparatus that nowadays can be constructed by an amateur or school. I was inspired to study High Energy Physics by enthusiasm for measuring the unseen - I hope we can share some of this enthusiasm with visitors to the Bristol Balloon Fiesta."