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Giant, frozen neutrino telescope completed

IceCube-schema.jpgThe weather outside may be frightful where you are but at least it’s not -30 degrees Celsius. Yet in these sub-zero conditions, researchers at the South Pole have placed the final string of detectors for the Icecube Neutrino Observatory, a cubic kilometer-sized telescope meant to search for the origin of cosmic rays, on 18 December.

Icecube, which has been under construction since 2005, is composed of 86 wires set in the Antarctic ice at depths ranging from 1,450 to 2,450 meters, each with 60 basketball-sized detectors strung on them like Christmas lights. The detectors look for a characteristic blue flash of light, which signals that a neutrino has hit an oxygen atom. Such events are rare—trillions of neutrinos may pass through the ice without interaction—but each flash tells researchers where the neutrino came from and how much energy it had.

To build the telescope, researchers drilled holes in the ice with a jet of near-boiling water flowing out of a hose at around 760 liters/minute, explains Albrecht Karle, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. At that rate, it takes nearly a day to drill the full 2450 meters and, after inserting the detectors, the researchers wait five to six days for the hole to refreeze before they can begin taking data, he adds.

Within a few weeks the entire array will be completely frozen and, after calibration, data will be taken with the full array beginning around 1 May, says Karle. Aside from investigating the origin of high-energy cosmic rays, Icecube may shed light on the nature of dark matter and could even provide evidence for the extra dimensions predicted in string theory, says Spencer Klein, a physicist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in Berkeley, California.


  1. Report this comment

    P Edant said:


    Although you mis-spelt ‘neutrino’ in the URL and the and title headline.

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    Uncle Al said:

    Super-Kamiokande is 50 kilotonnes of water. IceCube, at a cubic kilometer, is a gigatonne of water or 20,000 Super-Kamiokandes. One’s breath is taken away by the thought of new SUSY calculations rationalizing zero observed proton decays over the years to follow.

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    abha said:

    i am just astonished but feeling very happy !

    “one more milestone in astrology”

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