A deep underground laboratory is not the obvious place to view an eclipse. Yet it is an ideal place to monitor the dancing magnetic field generated by the currents in the ionosphere above us. During a solar eclipse, as the shadow of the moon moves over the upper atmosphere, this dance is disrupted, and we can study how this cool spot impacts the space weather.
The Boulby Mine, on the North Yorkshire coast, is home to a deep underground laboratory hosting experiments studying research topics including dark matter, climate science, carbon-capture, and the search for alien life. In 2012, I was invited to visit by the Director Sean Paling to investigate its potential for planned experiments.
Dark matter has long been a popular subject choice for a public talk on particle physics or astronomy. Not only is it genuinely one of the biggest mysteries in modern science, but it is also a great story. The astronomical evidence that the majority of the galaxy is made from some unknown invisible substance is overwhelming. The theory that this missing matter consists of a new type of particle is the frontrunner explanation. It falls to particle physicists to test this hypothesis by searching for dark matter particles—a challenge which we accept with relish.
In the 1960s an underground capsule was established as a command point for a nuclear missile system across Provence. In the 1990s it found a new home as a place to search for dark matter, and has since become a centre for a much wider spectrum of research.