Huge Ice Telescope Hunts for Dark Matter’s Space Secrets

Scientists use the world’s biggest telescope, buried deep under the South Pole, to find the mysteries of neutrinos.

IceCube is a particle detector that is created to record the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic particle tiny particle known as the neutrino. Photo: NSF

It took the huge telescope 10 years to build 2 400m below the Antarctic ice. At one cubic km, it is bigger than the Empire State building, the Chicago Sears Tower – now known as Willis Tower – and Shanghai’s World Financial Centre combined.

With the help of the mega-detector, which was placed deep under the South Pole, scientists believe to learn something of neutrinos, which are believed to carry information about the birth of our galaxy and the mystery of black holes.

Scientists suggest that the small particles are born when violent cosmic events, such as colliding galaxies or distant black holes, occur at the very edges of the universe, explains The Daily Mail.

“It’s a fantastic way to do neutrino astronomy, much cheaper than anything anyone ever dreamed of,” said Francis Halzen of the University of Wisconsin.

“We are looking for things like active galactic nuclei which put out tremendous energies in neutrinos,” he added.

The telescope was designed to examine neutrinos, which are emitted by exploding stars and move close to the speed of light.

According to Reuters, IceCube is attracting attention in the light of recent discovery of a particle that appears to be the Higgs boson – a basic building unit of the universe.

“You hold up your finger and a hundred billion neutrinos pass through it every second from the sun,” said Jenni Adams, a physicist at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, who is familiar with the matter.

It should be noticed that the device can be described as a string of light detectors buried in the ice through hot water drilling. After neutrinos interact in the ice, they produce charged particles responsible for creation of light, which can be detected.

The ice can be compared to a net that isolates the neutrinos, which makes the small particles easier to observe. It is also helps to protect IceCube from damaging radiation.

“If a supernova goes off in our galaxy now, we can detect hundreds of neutrinos with IceCube,” Adams explained at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Melbourne.

He continued: “We won’t be able to see them individually, but the whole detector will just light up like a massive fireworks display.”

Scientists hope that the telescope would help them to record the particles to discover their origin. If everything goes according to a plan, the findings will shed light on what happens in space, particularly in unseen parts of the universe known as dark matter.

Before IceCube was created in 2010, scientists managed to examine just 14 neutrinos. However, with the new device, in cooperation with another telescope in the Mediterranean, hundreds of neutrinos have been detected.

Still, they all have been created in the earth’s atmosphere, but scientists hope to eventually detect those from space. “Neutrinos … will point back to where they came from,” Adams said.

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