Digging Deep

UW scientists are leading an international team that’s building the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, drilling holes one and a half miles deep into the Antarctic ice to make room for strings of optical sensors that make up the enormous telescope.

What is IceCube looking for? Evidence of elusive subatomic particles that reveal information about supernovas, dark matter, gamma ray bursts, and other mysteries. Why the South Pole? It’s where scientists can find large amounts of the purest ice to get the most accurate measurements, filtering out low-energy particles and allowing them to focus on high-energy neutrinos, the particles with the scoop they seek.

When it’s done, IceCube will have eighty-six holes and more than 5,000 basketball-sized sensors. Project construction, which is funded by the National Science Foundation, won’t be done until 2011, but some sensors are already installed and sending data back to Madison for analysis.

Published in the Fall 2009 issue


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