General Lab Information

photo of STAR detector

The STAR Detector

The Solenoidal Tracker at RHIC, known as STAR, tracks the thousands of particles produced by ion collisions at RHIC. STAR is used to search for signatures of the form of matter that RHIC was designed to create: the quark-gluon plasma.

The STAR detector specializes in tracking the thousands of particles produced by each ion collision at RHIC. Weighing 1,200 tons and as large as a house, STAR is a massive detector. It is used to search for signatures of the form of matter that RHIC was designed to create: the quark-gluon plasma (QGP).

Detecting and understanding the QGP allows us to understand better the universe in the moments after the Big Bang, where the symmetries (and lack of symmetries) of our surroundings were put into motion. Unlike other physics experiments where a theoretical idea can be tested directly by a single measurement, STAR must make use of a variety of simultaneous studies in order to draw strong conclusions about the QGP. This is due both to the complexity of the system formed in high-energy nuclear collisions and the unexplored landscape of the physics being studied.

image of STAR collision tracks

End view of a collision of two 30-billion electron-volt gold beams in the STAR detector at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider.

Multiple detectors

Multiple Detectors

STAR consists of several types of detectors, each specializing in detecting certain types of particles or characterizing their motion. These detectors work together in an advanced data acquisition and subsequent physics analysis that allows final statements to be made about the collision.


The Heart of STAR

STAR's "heart" is the Time Projection Chamber which tracks and identifies particles emerging from heavy ion collisions. As each collision occurs, STAR measures many parameters simultaneously to look for signs of QGP.

Particle tracks

'Reversing' Time

By using powerful computers to reconstruct the sub-atomic interactions which produce the particles emerging from each collision, the detector can, in a sense, run time backwards. This process can be compared to examining the final products which come out of a factory and trying to determine what kinds of machines produced them.

STAR collaboration

The STAR Collaboration

The STAR collaboration is composed of hundreds of scientists and engineers from the U.S. and abroad. STAR is composed of 55 institutions from 12 countries, with a total of 609 collaborators. A variety of personnel participate in the collaboration, including students, university faculty and staff, national laboratory staff, and engineers.

Funding Agencies


Office of Nuclear Physics of U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science

U.S. National Science Foundation

Federal Ministry of Education and Research of Germany

National Institute of Nuclear Physics and Particle Physics of the National Center for Scientific Research of France

United Kingdom Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council

National Research Foundation, the Ministry of Science, Education and Sports of the Republic of Croatia

Ministry of Education and Science of the Russian Federation

Research Supporting Foundation of the State of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Russian Ministry of Science and Technology

National Natural Science Foundation of China

Chinese Academy of Science, the Ministry of Science and Technology of China

Ministry of Education of China

Grant Agency of the Czech Republic

Department of Energy of India

Department of Science and Technology of India

German Bundesministerium fur Bildung, Wissenschaft, Forschung and Technologie (BMBF)

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research of the Government of India

Swiss National Science Foundation

Netherlands Foundation for Fundamental Research on Matter

Polish State Committee for Scientific Research

Science and Technology Assistance Agency of Slovakia

The Helmholtz Association

National Science Centre of Poland

National Research Foundation of Korea

RosAtom of Russia