Cool observatory detects high-energy neutrinos

Discovery made at IceCube Neutrino Observatory

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, the world’s largest neutrino detector, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Photograph: Sven Lidstrom, IceCube/NSF via The New York Times

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, the world’s largest neutrino detector, at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Photograph: Sven Lidstrom, IceCube/NSF via The New York Times

 

One of the coolest labs on Earth, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, had some pretty hot news to report last week: evidence for very high-energy neutrinos arriving from outside our solar system.

Neutrinos are like lonesome cosmic wanderers – the nearly massless subatomic particles travel rapidly through space and interact with little. As you read this, billions of neutrinos are streaming through you, but you would never know it.

IceCube was set up to capture the calling cards of high-energy neutrinos from violent astrophysical sources, such as exploding stars and gamma ray bursts. It uses more than 5,000 “digital optical modules” embedded in a cubic kilometre of Antarctic ice, where the high pressure and lack of light offer a relatively friendly environment for detecting the ethereal speedsters. When a neutrino interacts with ice, there’s a tiny flash of blue light, and the detectors are there to register the happy occasion.

Last week a paper in the journal Science described 28 very high-energy particle events in data collected in IceCube over the course of about two years.

“It is gratifying to finally see what we have been looking for,” said Francis Halzen, principal investigator of IceCube and the Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor of Physics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “This is the dawn of a new age of astronomy.”

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.