Thousands of particles are tracked inside the STAR detector after gold ions collide.
Image Credit: Brookhaven National Laboratory
The Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory is among a dying species: It's the only particle collider left in the U.S.
At the RHIC, scientists accelerate ions — or charged atoms — to speeds extremely close to the speed of light. Most commonly, they use gold ions.
In the picture above, you can see a computer-generated image of what a collision between gold ions looks like inside the STAR detector. STAR tracks the paths of thousands of particles resulting from such collisions, allowing scientists to better understand conditions in the early universe.