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Astroparticle physics and cosmology laboratory opens in Paris

31 January 2005

New Year’s Day 2005 saw the official birth of the Laboratoire d’AstroParticule et Cosmologie (APC) in Paris. The APC’s core physics activities are high-energy astrophysics, cosmology and neutrino physics – fields that are linked by a high level of theoretical activity and innovative data-handling methods.

In gestation for more than four years, this multi-disciplinary, ultra-modern laboratory at the interface between particle physics and astrophysics has existed in the form of a “research federation” since January 2002. The APC was born from the converging scientific interests of the University of Paris VII Denis Diderot and the three research organizations that supported and moulded it: CNRS (via three of its scientific departments, IN2P3, INSU and SPM), CEA (Material Sciences Department) and the Paris Observatory. A scientific council has been in operation for several years, and in spring 2004, an evaluation committee gave the green light for the APC to be established.

Directed by Pierre Binétruy, the laboratory currently employs 65 scientists and research scientists from the Ile-de-France region, more than 50 engineers, technicians and administrative staff and some 50 post-docs, visiting scientists and students. It should ultimately have a complement of around 200 people. The scientists come from varying backgrounds: physicists from the Collège de France’s PCC laboratory, which closed down on 31 December to be merged into the APC; particle and astroparticle physicists from CEA’s DAPNIA laboratory; astrophysicists from the Paris Observatory; and theorists from the Orsay Theoretical Physics Laboratory and the Paris Astrophysics Institute. These groups have already joined forces in a series of jointly run research projects and rapprochement should continue in 2005, albeit at separate geographical locations. The APC will enter a second phase at the beginning of 2006, when the laboratory moves into the new premises of the University of Paris VII’s physics department, currently under construction on the Left Bank.

The APC physicists have already initiated or participated in projects and experiments. These include Auger and EUSO in the field of cosmic rays; INTEGRAL, HESS, GLAST and X-shooter in gamma astronomy; ANTARES in neutrino astronomy; Borexino and Double Chooz in neutrino physics; Planck and BRAIN for the study of the cosmological background; SNLS for the study of supernovae; and LISA for gravitational waves. An annual international scientific workshop has been organized since 2001; the next is scheduled for June 2005.

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