IceCube: the big, chill neutrino-spotter

News Excerpt:

Scientists reported they had found instances in IceCube’s data from 2011 to 2020 that matched the signature of tau neutrinos, with more than 99.999999% confidence.

About the IceCube:

  • The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is the world’s biggest ‘neutrino telescope’, designed to observe the cosmos from deep within the Antarctic South Pole ice.
  • It is buried beneath the cubic kilometre of surface, extending to a depth of about 2,500 meters.
    • A surface array, IceTop, and a denser inner subdetector, DeepCore, significantly enhance the capabilities of the observatory, making it a multipurpose facility.
  • It was built and is maintained by the IceCube Collaboration.
    • Approximately 300 physicists from 59 institutions in 14 countries make up the IceCube Collaboration.
  • The National Science Foundation (NSF-USA) provided the primary funding and the University of Wisconsin–Madison is the lead institution, responsible for the maintenance and operations of the detector.

Working of IceCube:

  • When a neutrino interacts with the ice surrounding the sensors, it may produce some charged particles and some radiation.
  • The sensors detect the radiation to infer the detection of a neutrino and use the radiation’s properties to understand more about the particle.
  • Neutrinos come in different types. IceCube can identify some of them in real-time. For others, IceCube collects data for many years and scientists then comb through them to find neutrino interaction events.
  • IceCube also observes cosmic rays that interact with the Earth’s atmosphere, which have revealed fascinating structures that are not presently understood.

About Neutrinos:

  • Neutrinos are light particles that very rarely interact with matter. This is why they’re called “ghost particles”.
    • These high-energy astronomical messengers provide information to probe the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma-ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars.
  • Scientists named the three types of neutrinos they have discovered so far for the other matter particle they interact with: the electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino.
  • By some estimates, a human-sized neutrino detector will have to wait for a century for a single neutrino to interact with a sensor.
    • The larger the detector’s collecting area, the higher the chances of spotting neutrinos.

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