It’s a long and winding road for the particles that recreate the Big Bang. Check out this view of the twists and turns ions take to get into our atom smasher, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.
At RHIC, heavy ions start their journey toward the rings in a linear accelerator — in this animation it’s the awesomely named Tandem van de Graaff that’s boosting the particles, which just recently retired from its duties at RHIC. The ions then get kicked into a small booster ring, where they pick up speed and head to the Alternating Gradient Synchrotron. That’s an even bigger ring, and to get these particles to practically the speed of light, we have to sling them around the AGS until they’re fast enough to enter the 2-mile RHIC ring and head in opposite directions toward their ultimate head-on collision.