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Oct. 4, 2011

MSU planetarium Big Bang show produced by students, faculty

EAST LANSING, Mich. — “Relics of the Big Bang,” a new program at Michigan State University’s Abrams Planetarium, is truly a home-grown project, developed and produced by MSU students, faculty and staff, and featuring some of the cutting-edge research being conducted by MSU scientists and students.

The show, which premieres this Friday, focuses on the work MSU is doing at the Large Hadron Collider. The world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the LHC is located at the European Centre for Nuclear Research, or CERN, as it is known by its French acronym.

During the past decade, more than 30 MSU faculty, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate students have spent time at CERN, which straddles the border between France and Switzerland.

Development of the planetarium program began last year when faculty members and students from MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences traveled to CERN to get a first-hand look at the facility. The team spent several days there, learning how it works and getting a crash course in particle physics.

Through the use of photographs, high-tech animation and interviews, “Relics of the Big Bang” will give the audience a look at the extraordinary work being done by MSU researchers and their colleagues from around the world.

“Our goals were, one, to talk about the science,” said Reinhard Schwienhorst, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy who conducts research at CERN and served as executive producer of the program. “The other one was to let everyone know that MSU has a big role in CERN, and that a lot of our scientists here are connected to CERN in a big way.”

The work at CERN revolves around fundamental physics, finding out what the universe is made of and how it works. At CERN, the world’s largest and most complex scientific instruments are used to study the basic constituents of matter — the fundamental particles. By studying what happens when these particles collide, physicists learn about the laws of nature and what occurred during and right after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago.

MSU’s CERN-related work has been varied. Researchers worked on the design and construction of ATLAS, a massive detector located in the LHC that collects and measures the subatomic debris resulting from the collisions taking place within. Lately, MSU has been part of an international effort to analyze the massive amounts of raw data that are generated by the LHC.

Showtimes for “Relics of the Big Bang” are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. For more information, visit


Michigan State University has been working to advance the common good in uncommon ways for more than 150 years. One of the top research universities in the world, MSU focuses its vast resources on creating solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges, while providing life-changing opportunities to a diverse and inclusive academic community through more than 200 programs of study in 17 degree-granting colleges.