Image of the Day: Planet’s Longest Telescope Buried Under South Pole Is Ready to Unearth Dark Matter


The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, longer than the world's tallest skyscrapers combined built over a decade buried under the South Pole  at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica, is ready to begin its serach for enigmatic dark matter of the Universe.

The massive telescope, which is the size of a cubic kilometer and located 1400 meters underground is longer than the Petronas Towers, the Empire State Building, and the Willis Tower/Sears Tower combined.

The Ice Cube Observatory is designed to find extremely high energy neutrinos–tiny subatomic particles–originating from supernova explosions, gamma-ray bursts and black holes, with an emphasis on expanding humankind's knowledge of dark matter. Neutrinos, according to current scientific theory, play a crucial part in detecting dark matter.

The Observatory is designed to detect a blue light, called Cherenkov radiation, created by the nuclear reactions of individual neutrinos crashing into ice atoms. Cherenkov radiation is generally considered to be the equivalent of a sonic boom for light.

Construction of the IceCube telescope was an extraordinary engineering feat. University of Wisconsin scientists built a customized hot water drill capable of penetrating more than 1.2 miles of Antarctic ice. These multiple deep holes in the Antarctic ice were then filled with sensors and support equipment. Each hole took approximately 48 hours to drill.

 IceCube's principal investigator, Francis Halzen, said that since the 1970s we have dreamed of building a detector of this size, and we have spent 20 years working toward IceCube. If the science to come brings half the excitement of completing this instrument, we have a bright future ahead. With the completion of IceCube, we are on our way to reaching a level of sensitivity that may allow us to see neutrinos from sources beyond the sun."

IceCube is operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Science Foundation, with funding provided by the United States, Belgium, Germany, and Sweden. Researchers from Barbados, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom are also involved in the project.

Daily Galaxy via  University of Wisconsin-Madison

[Image courtesy B. Gudbjartsson/National Science Foundation via University of Wisconsin-Madison]


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