Cool Pics of Abandoned Soviet Particle Accelerator


The mysterious folks at have an incredible photo tour up of the Soviet-era accelerator under the Russian town of Protvino, in Moscow Oblast (about 2.5 hours’ drive from Moscow proper). Protvino was the home of the Institute for High Energy Physics, which was part of Rosatom, the Russian Nuclear Agency. It was at IHEP that a few atoms of the antimatter particle antihelium were successfully created.

It was also at IHEP that Anatoli Bugorski accidentally stuck his head in a proton accelerator in 1978. Bugorski was doing some work and got distracted and…well, stuck his head in the U-70 synchrotron. Bugorski’s head was struck with a proton beam of about 200,000 rads, with an energy of something like 70 billion electron volts.

There had been virtually no research on the effect of zapping human heads with proton beams, but nobody (including Bugorski) expected him to live more than a few days at the absolute most. Instead, Bugorski lived and completed his PhD, though the acute conditions caused to his face and head by the event were gruesome in the extreme, and was still having lingering effects when Masha Gessen at Wired profiled him in 1997.

The UNK proton accelerator was the last big accelerator built, and at the time it was built it was the largest particle accelerator in the world. It was abandoned in 1996.

In the tour, there are bazillions of photos both of the abandoned surface in the vicinity of the accelerator, and of the facility itself. The surface, like many remote places in Russia, looks pretty post-apocalyptic — but the underground photos are the ones that are totally amazing.


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