Giant observatory comes up 8,000 feet beneath Antarctic

December 24th, 2010 - 3:00 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Dec 24 (IANS) The world’s strangest observatory, as big as a cubic kilometre, has come up 8,000 feet beneath the Antarctic ice at the South Pole.The gigantic telescope, known as IceCube Neutrino Observatory, will detect elusive subatomic particles called neutrinos travelling through Earth at the speed of light.

Very little is known about neutrinos, but they are believed to carry information about the birth of our galaxy and the mystery of black holes, a Daily Mail report said.

Physicists think that the particles are born when violent cosmic events, such as colliding galaxies or distant black holes, occur at the very edges of the universe, said the report.

Travelling unhindered billions of light years through space, these mysterious high-energy particles could provide answers to some of the most fundamental questions about the universe. But first you have to find them.

So scientists are using ice to watch for that rare occasion that a neutrino crashes into one of the atoms making up the molecules of water ice.

The collision between a neutrino and an atom produces particles known as ‘muons’ in a flash of blue light called ‘Cherenkov radiation.’

In the ultra transparency of the Antarctic ice, the optical sensors of the telescope detect this blue light.

The trail left in the wake of the subatomic collision allows scientists to trace the direction of the incoming neutrino, back to its point of origin, be it a black hole or a crashing galaxy.

The entire project costs $279 million, of which the National Science Foundation in the United States contributed $242 million.

The final stretch of construction ended with the drilling of the last of the 86 holes for the 5,160 optical sensors that are now installed to form the main detector.

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