What Are They Doing?

A large international team of scientists and drilling technicians worked throughout the austral summer to continue to assemble and test the world's largest scientific instrument, the in-ice IceCube Neutrino Detector. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 10 million 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 on the sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles or forces; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like you, or the entire 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 collide with a proton. This collision transforms the neutrino into a muon, a charged particle that can travel for 5-10 miles and generate detectable light.

IceCube is being constructed in Antarctica because the huge amount of dense ice under the South Pole contains a lot of protons that can be hit by passing neutrinos, and the ice is transparent, so the resulting light can be caught by sensors. IceCube is made up of 4200 sensitive light detectors embedded in the ice at depths between 1450 and 2450 meters (4700-8000 feet). The sensors were deployed on strings of 60 modules each, into holes 60 cm. in diameter in the ice, melted using a hot water drill. Covering about one square kilometer, IceCube expands on an existing experiment that started detecting neutrinos at the South Pole in 1997 (http://). Now complete, IceCube can detect up to 300,000 neutrinos a year for up to 20 years.

The data collected will be used to make a neutrino map of the universe and to learn more about cataclysmic astronomical phenomena, like gamma ray bursts, black holes, and 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 can lead to unexpected discoveries.

Where Are They?

The team worked from 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 new South Pole station, which supplies the necessary logistics of food, power, and shelter. The South Pole is reached by plane from McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica from October through February, after which temperatures become too low for planes to safely operate. Approximately 50 people stay through the rest of the year, which is known as wintering over. IceCube has two to three people dedicated to overseeing the operation of the telescope during this period at the South Pole.

Latest Journals

Well now I've returned from the South Pole, finished with my stint working with the IceCube team.   What I miss about the South Pole: Really, the cold is not bad, in fact it's kind of nice - it's a fun ritual to put on all the layers.  Not so much fun when you realize you missed one! I will miss…
Two things I will miss about being in Antarctica: cool ice crystals, and amazing atmospheric light shows. I was not in Antarctica during the winter - in which case I would have been fortunate enough to see the Aurora Australis - the Southern Lights.  While I was there, the sun was in the sky the…
As I mentioned in the previous post - the IceTop sensors are now all in the tanks, the tanks are filled and freezing into solid crystal-clear ice around the DOMs embedded in them.  We did some work today to open up the doors on the tanks and install sun shields, to allow the water to freeze faster…
Today's my last day at the Pole.  I'll hop on a C-130 at around noon and fly back to McMurdo.  Last night, the South Pole Telescope hosted a "ladies night" event with music and dancing and tours of the telescope - that was a lot of fun, a nice celebration to bring my month-long visit to…
Dates
-
Location
South Pole Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title
IceCube Neutrino Lab
Casey OHara - Teacher
Teacher
Carlmont High School

Casey O'Hara has worked in the past as a mechanical engineer designing robots and implantable medical devices, but for the fast five years he has been teaching physics and integrated science at Carlmont High School. Curiosity drives his passion for teaching science, as it affords him the opportunity to constantly learn new things while helping his students learn. Mr. O'Hara's students apply physics to design, build, and perform on their own musical instruments, finding connections between physics and music. When not in the classroom, Mr. O'Hara likes to appease his curiosity through travel, mostly to tropical climates and warm beaches. Mr. O'Hara thinks that participating in the IceCube project will be an amazing opportunity to experience cutting edge physics research, and hopes that during his visit to the South Pole he will, in addition, witness climate change research.

Jim Madsen - Researcher
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."

Francis Halzen - Researcher
Researcher
University of Wisconsin Madison

Francis Halzen is a theoretician studying problems at the interface of particle physics, astrophysics and cosmology. Since 1987, he has been working on the AMANDA experiment, a first-generation neutrino telescope at the South Pole. AMANDA observations represent a proof of concept for the recently completed kilometre-scale observatory IceCube.

Tom Gaisser - Researcher
Researcher
University of Delaware

The current spokesperson for the IceCube collaboration is Tom Gaisser. He is the Martin A. Pomerantz Professor of Physics at the Univesity of Delaware. Tom is a well known astroparticle and cosmic ray physicist who promoted the concept of an array of detectors on the surface as part of IceCube.. Tom has been instrumental in getting an Antarctic Research page up at the University of Delaware where he and others have posted blogs from the South Pole.

IceCube In-Ice Antarctic Telescope Resources

Overview

Before leaving for the South Pole in late 2009, I received many suggestions for things to try down under. Liz Ratliff’s math classes suggested we try making ice cream! So, before I left, I had my students follow her recipe to make ice cream in our classroom in balmy California.

Lesson
Arctic
About 1 period
Elementary and Up
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Overview

Students will individually weigh a random sample of pennies. The data will be graphed to look for patterns, then explanations will be sought to explain these patterns. Some of the key ideas are using graphical representations of data to help identify patterns.

Lesson
Antarctic
Less than a week
Elementary and Up
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This was a real-time event with PolarTREC teacher Casey O'Hara being broadcast from the South Pole Station, Antarctica. Casey presented on the IceCube telescope project and covered a bit about life at the South Pole station.

This article from the San Francisco Chronicle is about Casey O'Hara's upcoming expedition to Antarctica. It also includes some great photos from a pre-expedition icecream making lab. You can visit the article online here.

Article
Antarctic
All Aged
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This article from the San Mateo Daily Journal is about Casey O'Hara's upcoming expedition to Antarctica. You can visit the article here.

Article
Antarctic
All Aged
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