News / Science & Technology

Antarctic IceCube Reveals Extraterrestrial Finding

National Science Foundation scientists, engineers and drillers working on the deployment of IceCube in December, 2010, signed the last sensor before it was buried 2 kilometers deep in the Antarctic ice. (IceCube/NSF)
National Science Foundation scientists, engineers and drillers working on the deployment of IceCube in December, 2010, signed the last sensor before it was buried 2 kilometers deep in the Antarctic ice. (IceCube/NSF)
Rosanne Skirble
Sensors buried deep in the Antarctic ice have detected evidence of high energy particles from outside the solar system. The extraterrestrial discovery could usher in a new age of astronomy and greater understanding of the nature of the universe.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole station is the world’s largest neutrino collector.

IceCube scientists and engineers assembled digital optical modules (DMOs) - instruments the size of basketballs - and installed them at depths of up to two kilometers under the ice.

Linked to computers by an extensive array of cables, DMOs collect raw data on neutrino activity in near real time by capturing the light emitted when neutrinos strike the ice.
  • The IceCube Laboratory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica is the world's largest neutrino detector.(Sven Lidstrom, IceCube/NSF)
  • IceCube used icebreakers to deliver heavy equipment from Sweden to the coast of Antarctica. (Chadden Hunter)
  • Scientists began deploying neutrino detectors beneath 1,500 meters of ice starting in November of 1992. (Robert Morse/NSF)
  • Once the detectors were deployed, cables were pulled to connect the sensors to IceCube Lab’s servers. (Freija Descamps/NSF)
  • A technician at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Physical Sciences Lab works on one of the sensors of the IceCube detector. (IceCube/NSF)
  • NSF scientists, engineers and drillers working on the deployment of IceCube in Dec. 2010, signed the last sensor before it was buried 2 kilometers deep in the Antarctic ice. (IceCube/NSF)
  • Members of the IceCube Collaboration before the deployment of the last digital optical module (DOM), installed on Dec. 18, 2010. (Robert Schwarz, NSF)
  • This digital image shows the highest energy neutrino ever observed, with an estimated energy of 1.14 petaelectronvolts (PeV), detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole on Jan. 3, 2012. (IceCube Collaboration)
  • Only two percent of Antarctica is not covered in ice. (Jim Haugen/NSF)
  • The IceCube Lab under the stars. (Felipe Pedreros. IceCube/NSF)

High energy neutrinos rare    

These unimaginably tiny, nearly massless particles are the building blocks of the cosmos. They stream from the sun or Earth’s own atmosphere at near light speed. Billions pass through us every second without a trace.

But, these are low energy neutrinos. They are not what interest the 250 scientists from 11 countries working on IceCube.

Principal investigator and University of Wisconsin physics professor Francis Halzen says IceCube is scanning for high energy neutrinos from outside the solar system.

“What we want to see is a handful of events sent to us by the universe. We’ve finally discovered those.”

New research confirms powerful neutrinos

When the neutrinos interact with atoms inside the deep ice detectors, they sometimes give off puffs of light. In 2010, scientists detected two high energy neutrinos and then, last year, 26 more, including the most energetic neutrinos ever observed.

IceCube collaborator and University of Wisconsin physicist Nathan Whitehorn says analysis of that data, published in the journal Science, confirmed their earlier find.

LISTEN: Extraterrestrial Discovery
Extraterrestrial Discoveryi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“It was almost impossible without more data and data at lower energies to be sure that these two neutrinos that we found were part of a larger pattern indicating an extraterrestrial population, instead of some statistical fluke.”

Neutrinos ideal candidates for tracing origin of cosmic rays

Neutrinos have almost no mass and no electric charge, so they are unaffected by Earth’s magnetic fields.

They keep up speed and zip in a straight line through the solar system. That behavior is far different from the electrically charged cosmic rays, which rain down on our planet and are easily deflected by magnetic fields. Whitehorn says that makes them ideal candidates to track the origin of cosmic rays.

“We expect that anything that is making high energy cosmic rays, the most energetic phenomenon in the universe, whatever they are, will make neutrinos at the same time and if we are able to identify the origin of these high energy neutrinos, they will provide some very powerful clues about the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays.”

Scientists have been trying to solve this mystery for more than a century, and they hope these extraterrestrial messengers can point the way.

You May Like

Republican Majority in Congress Off to Rough Start

Standoff over Homeland Security funding exposes philosophical, tactical problems within party More

Pakistan Blocks Baloch Activist from US Trip

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan slams Islamabad officials for stopping people from leaving country to attend human rights conference More

Video Muslims Long Thrived in North Carolina Before Students Killed

Idyll shattered February 10, when three Muslim university students living in Chapel Hill were gunned down by a neighbor More

ILO: Women Still Losing Out in Global Work Place

International Labor Organization says women are marginally better off now than they were 20 years ago More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Studentsi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
March 05, 2015 9:04 PM
The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Muslims Long Thrived in N Carolina Before Slaying of 3 Students

The killings of three Muslim students in North Carolina early last month came as Muslims across the United States have felt under siege, partly as a result of terrorist attacks being committed internationally in the name of their faith. But Muslims have long thrived in university cities in this part of the American South. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Fuel Shortages in Nigeria Threaten Election Campaigns

Nigeria is suffering a gas shortage as the falling oil price has affected the country’s ability to import and distribute refined fuels. Coming just weeks before scheduled March 28 elections, the shortage could have a big impact on the campaign, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA.
Video

Video Report: Human Rights in Annexed Crimea Deteriorating

A new report by Freedom House and the Atlantic Council of the United States says the human rights situation in Crimea has deteriorated since the peninsula was annexed by Russia in March of last year. The report says the new authorities in Crimea are discriminating against minorities, suppressing freedom of expression, and forcing residents to assume Russian citizenship or leave. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video 50 Years Later African-Americans See New Voting Rights Battles Ahead

Thousands of people will gather to mark the 50th anniversary of a historic civil rights march on March 7th in Selma, Alabama. In 1965, dozens of people were seriously injured during the event known as “Bloody Sunday,” after police attacked African-American demonstrators demanding voting rights. VOA’s Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights pioneers who are still fighting for voting rights in Alabama more than 50 years later.
Video

Video Craft Brewers Taking Hold in US Beer Market

Since the 1950’s, the U.S. beer industry has been dominated by a handful of huge breweries. But in recent years, the rapid rise of small craft breweries has changed the American market and, arguably, the way people drink beer. VOA’s Jeff Custer reports.
Video

Video Video Claims to Show Shia Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

A graphic mobile phone video is spreading on the Internet, claiming to show Iraqi forces or Shia militia executing a handcuffed Sunni boy. Experts have yet to verify the video, but already Islamic State followers are publicizing it across social media, playing on deep-rooted sectarian fears. VOA’s Jeff Seldin reports.
Video

Video Ukrainian Authorities Struggle to Secure a Divided Mariupol

Since last month's cease-fire went into effect, shelling around the port city of Mariupol has decreased, but it is thought pro-Russian separatists remain poised to attack. For the city’s authorities, a major challenge is gaining the trust of residents, while at the same time rooting out informants who are passing sensitive information to the rebels. Patrick Wells reports for VOA.
Video

Video Volunteer Gauge-Watchers Help Fine-Tune Weather Science

An observation system called CoCoRaHS is working to improve weather science, thanks to thousands of volunteers across the country who measure precipitation in their own backyards, then share their data through the Internet. VOA's Shelley Schlender reports.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More