The South Pole may be as geographically far away from Santa’s home as is possible, but that didn’t prevent Christmas from coming early to the scientific base that is located there. Last week, researchers completed construction of the IceCube Project, which has been five years in the making and promises an unprecidented look into the very nature of the cosmos.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory has been built under the Antarcitc ice –8000 feet under the ice to be precise, in hopes of detecting the elusive sub-atomic particles that seem to have some link to the violent cosmic events that may have created the Universe. So far, only about a dozen neutrinos have ever been detected, but researchers hope to change that with this $279 million project.
IceCube uses special sensors, called Digital Optical Monitors, to look for the neutrinos, which leave a distinct radiation signature behind when they collide with oxygen atoms in the ice. Those collusions result in a tell-tale trace of blue light that the obeservatory can track back to the origin of the particle which will help scientists to better understand how the neutrinos are generated in the first place.
Neutrinos are a bit of an anomoly in the Universe, as they are unique paritcles that carry a neutral charge and rarely interact with other particles. They seem to pass through the cosmos, and our planet, without regard to other forces, with their origins and purpose largely a mystery. The completion of the IceCube Project should give scientists the opportunity to observe the particles more closely and possibly take steps toward a better understanding of the Universe itself.
[Photo credit: National Science Foundation]