Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory 2014

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New Resource
Armando wrote a book about his experience! There is a forward by his researcher. You can download a PDF of the book here.

What Are They Doing?

The view down a 2.5 km drill hole used by the Ice Cube projectThe view down a 2.5 km drill hole used by the Ice Cube project How do you find something that isn't directly visible? That's the challenge faced by the team who developed the IceCube neutrino detector under the ice at the South Pole. Just as X-rays allow us to see bone fractures, and MRIs help doctors find damage to soft tissue, neutrinos will reveal new information about the universe that can't be seen directly. The in-ice particle detector at the South Pole records the interactions of neutrinos which are nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particles. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 100 trillion pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those in the sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like the earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect.

All neutrino detectors rely on observing the extremely rare instances when a neutrino does interact with a proton or neutron. This transforms the neutrino into a charged particle of the same type as the neutrino flavor (electron, muon, or tau). Muons are charged particles that can travel for 5-10 miles (8-16 kilometres) through matter depending on their energy, and generate detectable light in translucent media.

IceCube is made up of thousands of sensitive light detectors embedded in a cubic kilometre of ice between 1450 m and 2450 m below surface. The sensors are deployed on strings in the ice holes that were made using a hot water drill. IceCube detects about 100,000 neutrinos a year, and has a projected life time of two decades. The data collected will be used to make a "neutrino map" of the universe and to learn more about astronomical phenomena, like gamma ray bursts, black holes, exploding stars, and other aspects of nuclear and particle physics. However, the true potential of IceCube is discovery; the opening of each new astronomical window leads to unexpected discoveries.

Where Are They?

Ice Cube Station at the South Pole, AntarcticaIce Cube Station at the South Pole, Antarctica The team worked at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica—the southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet. The IceCube site is about one kilometer from the South Pole Station, which supplies the necessary logistics of food, power, and shelter. Despite the cold outside, life inside the station is relatively luxurious with comfortable beds, cooked meals, and showers twice a week. The South Pole is reached by plane from McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica from the end of October through February, after which time temperatures become too low for planes to operate safely. About 40 people stay there the rest of the year, which is known as wintering over. IceCube has two people dedicated to overseeing the operation of the telescope during this period at the South Pole.

Journals

January 12: The IceCube Laboratory (ICL) near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
I am now back and my adventure has just begun, as I start sharing my experience with students, fellow teachers and the community. I am already seeing the fruits as I watch my own students picking up an interest in high-energy astronomy and polar exploration. I sincerely hope a number of them will eventually follow careers in science and do even better things than what I did. January 12: The IceCube Laboratory (ICL) near the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. January 20: Selfie photograph at the South Pole, with the Antarctic plateau in the background. First of all, I would like to...
Back at the school, signing an autograph.  Credit: Gretchen B. Guzmán.
Today at 4:00 am I safely arrived home in San Juan, Puerto Rico. I made the decision to immediately go back to full time work, and at 9:00 am I arrived at the Seminary where I teach astronomy and mathematics, and by 3:30 pm I reached Pedro Rivera Molina middle school where I found my full cohort of 90 EcoSTEAM students anxiously waiting for me. Unbeknownst to me, the school had been planning a party for my arrival, complete with pizza, soda end even a cake! The kids had assembled at the school's stadium and I spoke to them for about 30 minutes on my South Pole expedition. Back at the...
Leaving Christchurch airport on my way to the International Antarctic Center.
As scheduled, today we successfully flew from McMurdo Station in Antarctica to Christchurch New Zealand. Here is a summary of the day. Leaving Christchurch airport on my way to the International Antarctic Center. Before boarding the plane, I was able to get one last peek at Mt. Erebus, and what a spectacular view was that! There was a lenticular cloud floating in the sky above the volcano, something which—like the plume of smoke that I saw yesterday—I had never seen before. The cloud hid the upper half of the volcano, but the sky was clear just out and around the cloud and the Sun was...
Selfie photograph with Mt. Erebus in the background.
Today we were blessed with an absolutely beautiful day. The sky was crystal clear with an intense blue, and the Sun was shining as brightly as it is possible from Antarctica. Temperature was near freezing, but with the Sun and the calm air the weather felt incredibly mild. Selfie photograph with Mt. Erebus in the background. I started my day bright and early with a visit to Crary Labs here in McMurdo. Crary Labs—itself one of the main buildings at the station—is where most of the science is done, and it features an impressive number of exhibits relating to Antarctica. Main entrace at...
Me with Observation Hill in the background.  We were just starting out our walk.
It seems that we are going to stay in McMurdo until Saturday, so we decided to do some sightseeing in and around town. Around 3:00 pm I went out with James, Sam and Elisa and walked over the road that leads to and from the McMurdo airfield, down to where land meets the frozen ocean. The whole round trip is a six-kilometer hike—three each way—which at first sight looks longer, since it is done on a curvy, steep road that straddles the northern slope of Observation Hill. Me with Observation Hill in the background. We were just starting out our walk The Antarctic Fire Department. There...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates:
2 January 2015 to 23 January 2015
Location: South Pole, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: IceCube

Meet the Team

Armando Caussade's picture
G Works Inc. for the Puerto Rico Department of Education
San Juan
Puerto Rico

Armando is an astronomy educator leading two comprehensive university extension programs. His experience comprises all academic levels, from tertiary to primary, along with continuing education and teacher training. Being passionate about what he does has been the key to his success, which has been well documented through feedback by employers and audiences alike.

Career milestones

  • PolarTREC participant (2015) who traveled to the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station to conduct two weeks of maintenance and support work at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
  • Recipient of the Antarctica Service Medal of the United States of America (2015) from the National Science Foundation (NSF), a federal agency of the United States.
  • Former president at the Puerto Rico Astronomy Society (PRAS), strategic advisor, editor-in-chief, and NASA Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium affiliate representative for PRAS.
  • Member (2003–2006) of the NASA / JPL Solar System Ambassadors Program, a public outreach initiative designed to work with motivated volunteers across the United States.

Academic experience (current and past)

  • Instructor of astronomy @ University of Puerto Rico–Aguadilla.
  • Instructor of astronomy @ Ana G. Méndez University System / Metropolitan University.
  • Upward Bound summer instructor @ University of Wisconsin–River Falls.
  • Specialist teacher of astronomy @ G Works (for the Puerto Rico Department of Education).
  • Lecturer of astronomy and mathematics @ Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.
  • Teacher of computer science @ Academia del Perpetuo Socorro.

Armando constituye la figura clave en dos programas educativos sobre astronomía impartidos en universidades. Su experiencia docente abarca todos los niveles académicos, desde la escuela primaria hasta la universidad, incluyendo también educación continuada y seminarios para maestros. Su pasión por la educación es la clave del éxito, y sus resultados han sido evidenciados extensamente y de múltiples maneras.

Hitos profesionales

  • Participante de PolarTREC (2015) quien viajó a la estación Amundsen–Scott del polo sur para realizar trabajos de mantenimiento y de apoyo técnico en el Observatorio de neutrinos IceCube.
  • Premiado con la medalla de los Estados Unidos de América por servicios en la Antártida (2015), conferida por la Fundación Nacional para la Ciencia (NSF), una agencia del gobierno de los Estados Unidos.
  • Pasado presidente de la Sociedad de Astronomía de Puerto Rico (SAPR), asesor estratégico, jefe de editores y representante de la SAPR ante NASA Puerto Rico Space Grant Consortium.
  • Miembro (2003–2006) del programa Embajadores del Sistema Solar, auspiciado por NASA / JPL, una iniciativa de alcance comunitario que opera mediante voluntarios a través de los Estados Unidos.

Experiencia académica (presente y pasada)

  • Instructor de astronomía @ Universidad de Puerto Rico–Aguadilla.
  • Instructor de astronomía @ Sistema Universitario Ana G. Méndez / Universidad Metropolitana.
  • Instructor de verano en el programa Upward Bound @ Universidad de Wisconsin–River Falls.
  • Maestro especializado en astronomía @ G Works (bajo contrato con el Departamento de Educación de Puerto Rico).
  • Conferenciante de astronomía y matemáticas @ Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.
  • Maestro de ciencias de cómputos @ Academia del Perpetuo Socorro.
Jim Madsen's picture
University of Wisconsin River Falls
River Falls, WI
United States

Dr. Madsen is the chair of the Physics Department at UW-River Falls and Associate Director of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory where he directs the education and outreach program. His research interests include heliophysics and astrophysics, which he has studied at his various projects in Antarctica. In addition to research, Dr. Madsen is committed to reaching a broad audience beyond the research community. He is involved in education and outreach for the IceCube project including professional development courses for teachers and science and math instruction for the UWRF Upward Bound Program. He collaborates with a number of programs and institutions in addition to PolarTREC, including the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, UW-River Falls Upward Bound and McNair Programs, and service groups (Rotary International, Boy and Girl Scouts, university alumni associations, etc.). You can read more about Dr. Madsen's work here and here.

"Working in Antarctica is a wonderful adventure, and it is great to provide opportunities for others to have this awesome experience."

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Latest Comments

¡Gracias, Marilya! Para charlas públicas en Puerto Rico debe consultar la prensa. También estoy disponible para ofrecer charlas particulares, libre de costo, en cualquier lugar de la isla. Para...
Garcias, Reinaldo. Sí, el viaje ha sido una experiencia fabulosa, y más aún lo es ahora que estamos compartiendo la experiencia con todos. Gracias por el apoyo y los buenos deseos, y quedamos...
Thanks, Aliris! I would be delighted to share my South Pole experience with you and your students, at no cost, at the venue and date of your choice. Due to the volume of requests my preferred point...
Thanks, Mike! Good to have you here. My work at the South Pole was really enjoyable, and you together with each and every member of the team were key elements in my success. I am now sharing my...
My South Pole Journey was the experience of a lifetime. But I am delighted to be back since I can now share my experience with you all, at the Puerto Rico Astronomy Society (PRAS) and elsewhere....