Open Days a smash hit!

The general public seized the one and only opportunity to visit the Large Hadron Collider before it goes into service. The Open Days on 5 and 6 April attracted record numbers of visitors, with 53,000 visitors on the Sunday alone!

76,000 people came to CERN.

From early morning on Saturday, the day reserved for CERN personnel and their families, the seven LHC access points that were open and the various reception and activity locations at the surface were besieged by crowds of visitors itching to see the largest scientific machine ever built. In a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, 11,000 of the 23,000 visitors on the Saturday took to the lifts for a once-in-a-lifetime trip 100 metres below ground. This was just a warm-up for the hundreds of volunteers who were to welcome a veritable tidal wave of visitors on the following day.

Events get underway in the mairies - As partners in the Open Days, the mairies of the eleven communes situated around the LHC ring and access areas officially opened the visit itineraries on Saturday morning. Their representatives were then welcomed by CERN’s Director-General in the Globe. Each of the communes received a section of a superconducting LHC dipole as a souvenir of the LHC2008 event. Pictured here are François Meylan, Mayor of Ferney Voltaire (left) and Tatsuya Nakada, spokesman of the LHCb experiment.

On Sunday, 53,000 people of all ages and from all over Europe took up the Laboratory’s invitation. Some 56 media organisations from 13 different countries, represented by 85 journalists, covered the event.

The numerous interactive demonstrations, lectures and exhibitions on offer at the surface for the young (and the not so young) attracted huge numbers of visitors. But the biggest thrill of all was the prospect of a trip underground. From early morning, long queues formed for visits to the experimental caverns and the accelerator. Despite the long hours of waiting, visitors left delighted by their experience.

The gateway to ATLAS - The long queues were not enough to dampen the enthusiasm of the hordes of eager and curious visitors, whose numbers never ceased to grow over the course of the two days. Some even had to wait several hours to gain access to the tunnel and the four main experiments, such as at Point 1, the gateway to ATLAS (see photo). But the experience was evidently worth the wait, as the impressed and happy faces of those returning to the surface attested.

20,000 people instead of the original estimate of 15,000 were able to take the trip underground thanks to the tireless energy of CERN’s volunteers who were willing to go the extra mile to allow a maximum number of people to visit the experiments and the tunnel well into the evening.

Here are a few photographs of these two exceptional days, which could not have taken place without the selfless dedication of CERN’s 1500 volunteers and their determination to make the Open Days a resounding success.

A big thank you to the volunteer photographers from the Société genevoise de photographie and to the CERN photo club who helped the CERN photo service to cover the event.

A sight for sore eyes - The field of cryogenics was the subject of the activities on offer at the Cryostat in Building 165. Demonstrations involving superfluid helium, used to cool the LHC magnets, thrilled young and old alike.

In the tunnel - In spite of the continual influx of groups of visitors, whose steady comings and goings resembled a contemporary ballet of dancers in yellow helmets, an almost religious silence often reigned inside the machine, a hundred metres underground, a sign that everyone wanted to make the very most of this one and only opportunity to see the tunnel before LHC commissioning.

Getting Fred’s autograph - The children’s favourite on Sunday, after the LHC, was Fred, who presents the French television programme "C’est pas sorcier". On board a CERN lorry carrying a dipole magnet, Fred toured the communes around the LHC ring to meet the local public. Children flocked to see him throughout the day.

Super(conducting) activities - Families were able to try out the amazing properties of superconductivity for themselves by getting on this strange bicycle. In Building 163, MaNEP (a research network focussing on new electronic materials, based at the University of Geneva) organised a series of interactive activities on the subject, including the famous superconducting levitating scooter.

The ALICE experiment - Everyone was impressed by the wonders of the different technologies developed by the experiment to explore the first moments of the Universe.

The welcome points - Souvenirs of the LHC and CERN were on sale at all the welcome points.

The Computer Centre - The 20,000 processors and the huge data storage capacity also had a big impact.

Discovering the secrets of the dipoles - The activities centred on the dipole magnets introduced the public to the different stages involved in the assembly of the superconducting magnet cryostats in the special assembly hall and the preparation of the particle beam lines.

A meeting of different generations - At the exhibition on Nobel prize-winners held in the Forum Meyrin, Mila, the granddaughter of Simon Van der Meer, one of CERN’s Nobel prize-winners, posed for the cameras in front of a photo of her grandfather.