Seven years into his career as a newspaper photographer, Reidar Hahn had grown tired of hustling at all hours of the day and night.
“I was doing sports, chasing ambulances, chasing firetrucks. I was also responsible for a fashion section. I did everything,” Hahn told Business Insider.
So when he heard about a job opening for a photographer at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) nearly three decades ago — then home of the planet’s most powerful atom smasher, the Tevatron — he applied.
A little while later, he was hired at the Batavia, Illinois, government laboratory, where he got a front-row seat as the lab’s renowned physicists confirmed the existence of dark energy, identified what was then the farthest-away object ever observed, and constructed massive, complex experiments unlike anything else in the world.
Hahn has been shooting at the lab full-time since 1987, prompting Symmetry Magazine, a publication funded by the Department of Energy, to dub him “the physics photographer“.
Business Insider recently caught up with Hahn and asked him to share a few of his 29 favourite shots from the past 29 years of his career.
Disclosure: The author of this post held a summer internship with the Fermilab communications office in 2006 and has watched Hahn work first-hand.
The interior of a beam tube -- a crucial part of particle accelerators -- being prepared to receive a thin coating of metal. The tube will eventually be connected to other tubes and placed under a vacuum. (2011)
A giant particle detector component is trucked from Brookhaven National Laboratory to Fermilab against the backdrop of a Midwestern storm. (2013)
Sensitive devices called photomultiplier tubes are cold-tested in a vat of liquid nitrogen for the MicroBooNE neutrino detector. 'They see very small amounts of light inside a detector that's filled with liquid argon,' Hahn said. (2011)
A view from inside the main injector tunnel, which was formerly used in the Tevatron -- a 2-mile-circumference atom smasher. 'Today we use it to make the world's most intense beam of neutrinos, which are sent underground to a mine in Minnesota,' Hahn said. (2014)
A 3-by-4-foot plastic scintillating panel that's used outside a particle detector. The plastic detects and helps 'veto' any stray signal, like a cosmic ray from space. 'It's a way to eliminate bad data and increase your signal-to-noise ration,' Hahn said. (1990s)
Prototype light guides, which move light from particle interactions inside a detector to a photomultiplier that measures it. 'A lot of signals in particle physics are generated as light, so you have to guide that light to places where it can be read out with electronic sensors,' Hahn said. (1992)
Called a focusing horn, this component 'focuses the beam of particles that makes a neutrino beam,' Hahn said. 'We have to collide a particle beam into a target to create kaons and pions, which decay into neutrinos -- but you can't steer neutrinos, since they hardly interact with anything. So you focus the kaons and pions with the horn.' (2004)
A portrait of Fermilab scientist Luciano Ristori by the nose cone of a detector at Fermilab. 'The wires are data cables, and right behind his head is the beam tube,' Hahn said. 2004
Fermilab holds physics data on tape at this robot-operated storage facility at the lab's Feynman Computing Center. (2013)
A scientist holds a laser-light guide, which is used to calibrate Fermilab's MicroBooNE detector. 'Sensitive devices called photomultiplier tubes sit inside a vessel of liquid argon, and they can record rare neutrino interactions,' Hahn said. 'But they need to be calibrated.' (2013)
Part of an 18-inch-diameter, sensor-packed particle detector used in the Large Hadron Collider. The device was built at Fermilab and transported to CERN laboratory in Europe.
A specially-designed integrated circuit for a particle detector. (2014)
A member of the Fermilab bison herd braves a winter storm. (2007)
Robert Wilson, Fermilab's founder and first director, helped design the building, reflecting pool, and 'Hyperbolic Obelisk' out front. (1989)
'Those are actual helium balloons, but I pushed three pieces of wooden dowel into the ground, then Photoshopped out the dowels later on,' Hahn said. (2009)
Theoretical physicist Rakhi Mahbubani writes equations with dry erase marker on glass. (2008)
A machine drills out part of a particle detector from solid aluminium. The green fluid is a coolant similar to antifreeze. (2006)
These 52-foot-long plastic extrusions were filled with oil to become part of Fermilab's NOvA neutrino detector. (2013)
Sensitive detector chips are assembled on a silicon wafer chip. 'It eventually gets cut up with a diamond saw,' Hahn said. 'My hand is reflected above it, with tweezers holding a single chip.' (2006)
A superconducting radio-frequency cavity, which is filled with liquid helium, is tested inside a vacuum chamber. 'They cool it way down and see how much power they can put into it before it fails,' Hahn said. (2015)
A 3-inch-wide prototype for a particle detector. 'These strips would have detected particles when they passed through them,' Hahn said. (1995)
The 570-megapixel Dark Energy Camera (DECam), after it was built in a clean room at Fermilab. It's now mounted in the Blanco Telescope in Chile. (2011)
Fermilab scientists created a replica of the camera mount that would eventually hold DECam at the Blanco Telescope in Chile to test for proper balance. (2010)
A technician inspects a superconducting radio-frequency cavity in a clean room. (2014)
A particle accelerator component is prepared for a weld-inspection test. (date unknown)
Wilson, also a part-time artist, designed this sculpture for the lab. 'I'm laying on my back looking up at it from inside,' Hahn said. (2009)
Particle beams are accelerated in these drift tubes, which 'speed up particles to higher and higher energies,' Hahn said. 'The particle beam goes through the center, and is shielded from radio-frequency energy outside that does the acceleration.' (1995)
Five-inch-wide plastic components that make up parts of particle detectors.'It's clear in normal light, so I used ultraviolet light and a long exposure on film to make it glow by itself,' Hahn said. (1990)
The original power source for Fermilab's accelerator complex, called a Cockroft-Walton generator. It zapped hydrogen gas with 750,000 electron-volts to allow the atoms to be accelerated. 'It's since been replaced with something that fits in the back of a pickup truck,' Hahn said. (2008)
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