Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
|Elevation:||2,912 m (9,554 ft)|
|Latitude:||42° 28′ ??″ N|
|Longitude:||13° 33′ ??″ E|
Gran Sasso (Italian for great stone), a massif located in the Abruzzo region of central Italy, is the highest of the Apennines and the centerpiece of a national park (established 1991). The nearest city is L'Aquila. Gran Sasso has two peaks, Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo (respectively, "great horn" and "small horn"). Between them is nestled the southernmost glacier in Europe, the Calderone . Corno Grande was first ascended in 1573 by the Bolognese captain Francesco De Marchi together with Francesco Di Domenico ; nowadays, the tops of both peaks can be reached by hiking strenuous trails or rock climbing.
At the base of the peaks is the extensive Campo Imperatore plateau, connected to the ski villages of Prati di Tivo and Fonte Cerreto via ski lifts and roads which are closed in winter. A hotel on Campo Imperatore itself is the famous locale where Italian dictator Mussolini was imprisoned for months in summer 1943 until his rescue by Otto Skorzeny and German hang gliders on September 12. The plateau is also the site of the Campo Imperatore station of the Rome Observatory , from which the Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Objects Survey and other astronomical studies are carried out.
In the early 1980s two major tunnels, 10 km in length, were bored through Gran Sasso in order to construct a four-lane highway connecting L'Aquila with Teramo. Although the tunnel borers struck a natural aquifer, releasing a flood that killed seven workers, the tunnels opened in 1984. A side project was the construction of an underground physics laboratory, the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso, along the westbound highway tunnel. Several experiments based here study neutrinos or search for dark matter, projects made possible by the bulk of the mountain shielding them from cosmic rays. Both tunnel and laboratory face strong opposition from local environmental groups due to their interference with the aquifer, presence within a national park, and a small-scale chemical spill at the lab in 2002.
In March 2005, it was announced that a 2424 m (7900 ft) peak in Gran Sasso will be named after Pope John Paul II. The peak is located in a region that he frequently visited. A renaming ceremony will be held on the Pope's 85th birthday.
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