Opera - Gran Sasso
Case Study Project Opera - Gran Sasso

The Leica TDA5005 aligns the largest camera in the world

150 physicists, 36 institutions in 13 countries and a budget of 120 million euros: Opera is an international project carried out in collaboration with CERN and with the participation of the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research) aimed at reproducing on Earth, in known conditions, the natural phenomenon of the transformation of muon neutrinos into tau neutrinos. The final objective is to validate a theoretical model which would support the Grand Unification Theory of physics.

“This research may seem esoteric, but it is first and foremost highly practical and experimental. It involves major technological challenges in obtaining micrometric precision in a target weighing 1,300 tonnes. At the same time, it means examining what matter is made of and what role these mysterious particles might have played in the very first moments of the universe”, explains Dario Auterio, a physicist at the Institute of Nuclear Physics in Lyon (CNRS) and head of the neutrinos research group.


Within the framework of this research, a neutrino detector was installed in the Gran Sasso national laboratory, the largest underground laboratory in the world covering an area of 18,000 m². The site was chosen because the 1,400 metres of rock above it protect the detector from cosmic rays which would pollute the measurements. The neutrinos monitored by the group of researchers were specially produced at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research located under the Franco-Swiss border near Geneva. A particle accelerator fires protons onto a graphite target. The particles produced are then guided into a kilometrewide vacuum tube and directed towards the detector where they disintegrate, producing billions of neutrinos every second. The muon neutrinos then disperse in straight lines... straight through the Earth, because neutrinos are veritable ghosts. In general, they travel through the...

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