Antarctic IceCube observatory to hunt dark matter

Dec 23, 2010
A handout picture taken on December 18 released by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) shows the final Digital Optical Module (DOM) which was to be deployed in the IceCube array, the world's largest neutrino observatory, built under the Antarctic tundra near the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.

An extraordinary underground observatory for subatomic particles has been completed in a huge cube of ice one kilometre on each side deep under the South Pole, researchers said.

Building the , the world's largest neutrino observatory, has taken a gruelling decade of work in the Antarctic tundra and will help scientists study space particles in the search for , invisible material that makes up most of the Universe's mass.

The observatory, located 1,400 metres underground near the US Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, cost more than 270 million dollars, according to the US National Science Foundation (NSF).

The cube is a network of 5,160 , each about the size of a basketball, which have been suspended on cables in 86 holes bored into the ice with a specially-designed hot-water drill.

NSF said the final sensor was installed in the cube, which is one kilometre (0.62 miles) long in each direction, on December 18. Once in place they will be forever embedded in the as the drill holes fill with ice.

The point of the exercise is to study neutrinos, that travel at close to the speed of light but are so small they can pass through solid matter without colliding with any molecules.

Scientists believe neutrinos were first created during the Big Bang and are still generated by nuclear reactions in suns and when a explodes, creating a supernova.

A handout picture taken on December 18, released by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) on December 23, shows the final Digital Optical Module (DOM) IceCube project members. An extraordinary underground observatory for subatomic particles has been completed in a huge cube of ice one kilometre on each side deep under the South Pole, researchers said.

Trillions of them pass through the entire planet all the time without leaving a trace, but the IceCube seeks to detect the blue light emitted when an occasional neutrino crashes into an atom in the ice.

"Antarctic has turned out to be an ideal medium for detecting neutrinos," the NSF said in a statement announcing the project's completion.

"It is exceptionally pure, transparent and free of radioactivity."

Scientists have hailed the IceCube as a milestone for international research and say studying neutrinos will help them understand the origins of the Universe.

"From its vantage point at the end of the world, IceCube provides an innovative means to investigate the properties of fundamental particles that originate in some of the most spectacular phenomena in the Universe," NSF said.

Most of the IceCube's funding came from the NSF, with contributions from Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

Researchers from Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, Britain and Barbados also worked on the project.

It is operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Explore further: IHEP in China has ambitions for Higgs factory

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

IceCube neutrino observatory nears completion

Aug 31, 2010

In December 2010, IceCube -- the world's first kilometer-scale neutrino observatory, which is located beneath the Antarctic ice -- will finally be completed after two decades of planning. In an article in ...

IceCube drillers train for final Antarctic season

Jul 30, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- The sweltering Wisconsin summer is a far cry from conditions at the South Pole, but ice drillers from around the United States will gather next week in Stoughton to prepare for the upcoming Antarctic work ...

Recommended for you

New approach to form non-equilibrium structures

1 hour ago

Although most natural and synthetic processes prefer to settle into equilibrium—a state of unchanging balance without potential or energy—it is within the realm of non-equilibrium conditions where new possibilities lie. ...

Nike krypton laser achieves spot in Guinness World Records

3 hours ago

A set of experiments conducted on the Nike krypton fluoride (KrF) laser at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) nearly five years ago has, at long last, earned the coveted Guinness World Records title for achieving "Highest ...

Chemist develops X-ray vision for quality assurance

7 hours ago

It is seldom sufficient to read the declaration of contents if you need to know precisely what substances a product contains. In fact, to do this you need to be a highly skilled chemist or to have genuine ...

The future of ultrashort laser pulses

7 hours ago

Rapid advances in techniques for the creation of ultra-short laser pulses promise to boost our knowledge of electron motions to an unprecedented level.

IHEP in China has ambitions for Higgs factory

Jul 23, 2014

Who will lay claim to having the world's largest particle smasher?. Could China become the collider capital of the world? Questions tease answers, following a news story in Nature on Tuesday. Proposals for ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

theon
1 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2010
"Antarctic IceCube observatory to hunt dark matter". Poor title, nowhere it is explained what the sought neutrinos have to do with dark matter. Moreover, dark matter was not found in the incomplete Icecube: arXiv:0912.5183: "Search for Dark Matter from the Galactic Halo with IceCube". Dark matter should arise from non-relativistic neutrinos, Europhysics Letters 86, 59001 (2009), but these cannot be observed in IceCube. Nevertheless, I expect a lot of interesting data from IceCube.
yyz
not rated yet Dec 24, 2010
@theon,

While I agree that this article fails to explain neutrinos role in studies of DM (neutrinos derive from CDM annihilation), the Ice Cube paper you cite, based on early, incomplete data in no way supports your contention that nearly all DM is composed of hot neutrinos( http://arxiv.org/...83v1.pdf ).

From the abstract: "We find that even with the partially instrumented detector and a small dataset, we are able to meaningfully constrain the dark matter self-annihilation cross-section. Future analyses, based on data sets from a larger detector and the inclusion of the Galactic center, are expected to considerably improve these results."

While a detailed discussion of your hypothesis wrt hot DM ( http://arxiv.org/...52v2.pdf ) is beyond the scope of a few blog posts here, results from Ice Cube will be of great importance in improving constraints on the DM self-annihilation cross section.
braindead
5 / 5 (1) Dec 24, 2010
"...has taken a gruelling decade of work in the Antarctic tundra...." -

No tundra the South pole I think!

In physical geography, tundra is a biome where the tree growth is hindered by low temperatures and short growing seasons.
Most of Antarctica is too cold and dry to support vegetation, and most of the continent is covered by ice fields.
Ditto no "permafrost" - not applied to ice cap which is of course glacial ice not frozen soil.

Thanks to Wikipedia for definitions