The town of Lead, South Dakota was once famous for its prodigious gold and silver stores, but lately it’s been getting attention for its particle physics experiments instead.
Scientists hope these experiments, housed in the Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab) in the former Homestake Mine, will uncover truths about the nature of the universe from dark matter to neutrinos. On June 30, the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, a facility that highlights the mine’s gold and silver past and the lab’s particle physics future, held its grand opening ceremony.
Engineers, scientists, and students from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (Berkeley Lab) have been major drivers and key players in the creation and management of Sanford Lab, in collaboration with the State of South Dakota and dozens of research universities.
Additionally, Berkeley Lab manages projects and facilities nearly a mile underground, including the forthcoming LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) project, a next-generation dark-matter experiment, and the Berkeley Low Background Facility. Berkeley Lab is also a collaborating member in the current LUX dark matter experiment and the Majorana Demonstrator neutrino project, also located deep within the former gold mine.
The new 8,000-square- foot visitor center overlooks the Open Cut, an enormous mining pit created in the early days of Homestake. The visitor center features a classroom, a gift shop, and a 3,000 square-foot exhibition space that details the mine’s history and current and future research at Sanford Lab. Berkeley Lab Public Affairs contributed content to visitor center exhibits.
The ribbon-cutting event featured speakers from the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, the mayor of Lead, and Dennis Daugaard, the governor of South Dakota. Former governor and current South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds was also in attendance.
Murdock “Gil” Gilchriese, LZ project scientist and physicist in Berkeley Lab’s Physics Division attended the event. He was impressed, he said, by the new facility, the exhibits, and the general excitement about the research. “The combination of history and the future science—that’s what this is about—is fantastic,” Gilchriese said.
The Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center was funded in part by T. Denny Sanford, who donated $70 million to build the underground lab and the State of South Dakota, which provided $40 million in funds for the lab.