Winners of Physics Photo Contest Revealed

In September 2012, nearly 400 photographers toured some of the world's leading physics labs, snapping pictures of detectors, accelerators and other scientific instruments as part of the Particle Physics Photowalk. Forty amazing images to come out of the event were picked as finalists in a photo contest run by the InterAction collaboration. This photo by Nino Bruno took top honors in a public vote for its stark depiction of an access tunnel 1,500 meters underground at the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics' Gran Sasso National Laboratory. (Image credit: Nino Bruno)

A black-and-white view inside a sprawling physics lab that's buried nearly a mile under an Italian mountain won the people's pick for 1st prize in a photo contest that brought together images of atom-smashing instruments typically only seen by scientists.

Nearly 400 photographers were invited to some of the world's leading physics labs in September 2012 to point their cameras at the powerful machines. The event, called the Global Particle Physics Photowalk, was organized by the InterActions collaboration, a communications resource for international particle physics facilities.

A pool of 40 finalists were chosen from the resulting photos, and six winners were picked — three in a public vote and three by a group of judges. InterActions just announced the prizes today (April 18).

[See Images of the Winning Photos and Finalists]

The 1st-prize photo in the public vote was taken by Nino Bruno at an underground access tunnel at Gran Sasso National Laboratory of the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics. The facility is the biggest underground physics lab in the world, located nearly a mile below the surface of a mountain about 60 miles outside of Rome. Scientists there are studying mysterious particles known as neutrinos that are generated during nuclear reactions.

A team of judges awarded top honors to Joseph Paul Boccio for his close-up of a detector at Italy's Frascati National Laboratory. (Image credit: Joseph Paul Boccio)

The 2nd place photo, by Enrique Diaz, gives a color-drenched look at the STAR Detector, which tracks the particles that are smashed at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, now the only particle collider operating in the United States since the Tevatron at Illinois' Fermilab shutdown in 2011. A view vast tunnel that houses the RHIC was picked for 3rd prize.

Meanwhile, a group of judges singled out a colorful close-up by Joseph Paul Boccio of a detector at Italy's Frascati National Laboratory for their top prize. The judges' 2nd-prize pick was a photo of the TIGRESS detector, which helps scientists understand the structure of nuclei at TRIUMF, Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. A symmetrical picture of the glinting surfaces inside a data storage center at the United Kingdom's Rutherford Appleton Laboratory was the judges' pick for 3rd.

According to InterActions, the winning images will be featured in the Italian popular science magazine Le Scienze as well as Symmetry magazine and the CERN Courier. CERN is the lab in Switzerland that hosts the world's largest particle accelerator called the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), whose experiments revealed last year a new elementary particle that was recently confirmed to be the long-sought Higgs boson.

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Megan Gannon
Live Science Contributor
Megan has been writing for Live Science and since 2012. Her interests range from archaeology to space exploration, and she has a bachelor's degree in English and art history from New York University. Megan spent two years as a reporter on the national desk at NewsCore. She has watched dinosaur auctions, witnessed rocket launches, licked ancient pottery sherds in Cyprus and flown in zero gravity. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.