Wednesday, 10 Dec, 2008 Science

Researchers to Built Antarctic Telescope


Scientists from the University of Delaware's Bartol Research Institute are members of an international team that works on a project to construct the biggest neutrino telescope in the Antarctic ice. The telescope will be situated far beneath the surface of Antarctica.

The incredible device is called "IceCube" and it will be built on a territory of one cubic kilometer. The project is expected to be completed in 2011.

"IceCube will provide new information about some of the most violent and far-away astrophysical events in the cosmos," says Thomas Gaisser, the Martin A. Pomerantz Chaired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Delaware. Mr. Gaisser is one of the lead researchers working on the project. It is worth mentioning that 33 institutions are involved in the National Science Foundation project, which is managed by the University of Wisconsin. Gaisser is also coordinating the University's deployment of IceCube's surface array of detectors, dubbed "IceTop."

The IceCube telescope will not look just like any common telescope with giant lenses pointed up to the sky. It consists of strings of 60 optical detectors that will be frozen over a mile deep in the ice of the continent. The string will be about a kilometer long, resembling beads on a necklace. On top of each string there will be a pair of 600-gallon IceTop tanks. Each tank will include 2 optical detectors.

The water within the IceTop tanks freezes perfectly in 7 weeks. This could block the small flash that takes place when particles pass through ice. Neutrinos represent some of the most important elements of matter. They are elementary particles that travel millions of miles across space and through planets close to the speed of light, due to the fact that they have no electrical charge. They can go through matter almost undisturbed.

IceTop detectors located on the surface estimate the flows of particles produced by high-energy cosmic rays that come down from above. At the same time detectors located deep in the ice coordinate neutrinos that pass up through the planet from underneath. After a flash of light is spotted, the data is instantly passed on to the IceCube Lab, where scientists will be able to reconstruct the path of the particle, thus tracing its origin, which may be an exploding star or a black hole.

Additional information on the project can be found on the official website of the University of Delaware .

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