In case you missed it, learn what it's like to live and work at the South Pole Station in Antarctica. Educator Elaine Krebs and team member Justin Flaherty discuss the science and research behind IceCube and the Askaryan Radio Array projects. You can view the archive on the PolarConnect archives webpage.

What Are They Doing?

A Digital Optical Module (DOM) hanging in the IceCube Lab at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.
A Digital Optical Module (DOM) hanging in the IceCube Lab at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Photo by Kate Miller.
IceCube is located at the South Pole and records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature. In addition, IceCube studies the neutrinos themselves using the 100,000 neutrinos detected per year produced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere. Their energies far exceed those from accelerator beams. IceCube encompasses a cubic kilometer of instrumented ice, and is the largest detector by volume ever built.

The fully built ARA project, also located at the South Pole, will have an effective volume 100 times bigger than IceCube. The trade off is that it is only capable of observing radio waves from extremely high energy neutrinos, a million times more energetic than the neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere. This neutrinos are extremely rare, which is why such a large detector is needed to increase the chance of seeing one.

Where Are They?

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Photo by Kate Miller.
The team works at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. 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, accessible from the end of October through mid-February, after which time temperatures become too low for planes to operate safely. About 40 people remain at the South Pole station 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.

Latest Journals

Bye Antarctica :( My travel out of the South Pole and McMurdo Station were surprisingly smooth. I was personally hoping for delays and more time "on the ice" but the Fates weren't with me. Or maybe they were?! Travel in Antarctica is notoriously unpredictable, but not when you're trying to stay I…
Supporting Science As I reflect back on my time in Antarctica, I keep thinking of all the amazing support staff that made my entire experience so amazing. For every scientist here, there are 5 more hard-working and super helpful people making that science happen. I want to highlight some of the…
Some luxuries again! I made it back to McMurdo Station and the first thing I did was shower and do laundry! The water had been under maintenance at the South Pole before I left so I was happy to be clean again. Then I went to the coffee house and had a LATTE. Oh my goodness I didn't know how much…
The South Pole has been the most amazing, unique, fun, cold, beautiful, and awesome place I've ever been. I spent years applying to PolarTREC, and then years waiting when the pandemic hit - and two weeks feels WAY too short when you're living out your dream. My Last Days at Pole I spent my last…
South Pole Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
IceCube and The Askaryan Radio Array
Elaine Krebs - Educator
California Science Center

Elaine is the Lead Educator at the California Science Center in Los Angeles, California. As an informal educator, Elaine can be found both at the Science Center, and on the road, delivering programs to school groups, scout troops, homeschooled students, community centers, and the general public. She also writes curriculum for 3rd-8th graders participating in their various school programs and summer camps.

Prior to her current role, Elaine worked in Exhibit Development at the California Science Center, before teaching outdoor education on Catalina Island, CA and Big Bear Mountain, CA. Elaine received her M.S. in Marine and Environmental Biology from the University of Southern California (USC) where she studied the human impact on water quality and microscopic organisms. She turned her research into an animation entitled “The Nitrogen Cycle” which took first prize at the USC Science Film Festival in 2016. In her free time, Elaine enjoys swing dancing and traveling the world.

Jim Madsen - Researcher
University of Wisconsin River Falls

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."

Michael DuVernois - Researcher
University of Wisconsin-Madison

Michael DuVernois is a Senior Scientist with the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center and a Research Professor with the Department of Physics at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He is an experimental physicist working on the IceCube and ARA neutrino observatories at the South Pole. His other research interests include high-energy gamma-ray astronomy, humanitarian demining, and detector development for particle and astro-particle physics. Less technically, he has bowled on all seven continents, and is found most Austral Summers at the South Pole supervising students and technicians. He has previously flown satellite experiments in orbit and through the solar system, balloon instruments to the top of the Earth’s atmosphere, and built instrumentation for mountain-top and extended ground-based observatories.

IceCube and The Askaryan Radio Array 2022 Resources

The Polar Experience

Nothing replaces the connections and relationships that are formed from in-person experiences. During three years of waiting, I was able to learn a little about particle physics, and start a relationship with researchers through virtual conversations. However, in a one-month expedition, I was able to learn and retain so much more information, and create lasting relationships with

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This PolarConnect event was broadcast live from the South Pole Station in Antarctica with educator Elaine Krebs and the IceCube and Askaryan Radio Array Team on 18 January 2023.

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