Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory 2014
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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?
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?
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.
Meet the Team
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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."