|Scientists are using the world's biggest telescope, buried deep under
the South Pole, to try to unravel the mysteries of tiny particles known
as neutrinos, hoping to shed light on how the universe was made. The
mega-detector, called IceCube, took 10 years to build 2,400m below the
Antarctic ice and has a size of one cubic km.
Designed to observe neutrinos, which are emitted by exploding stars and
move close to the speed of light, the telescope is attracting new
attention in the wake of last week's discovery of a particle that
appears to be the Higgs boson - a basic building block of the universe.
IceCube is essentially a string of light detectors buried in the ice
through hot water drilling. When neutrinos, which are everywhere,
interact in the ice, they produce charged particles that then create
light, which can be detected. The ice acts as a net that isolates the
neutrinos, making them easier to observe. It also protects the telescope
from potentially damaging radiation.
Scientists are attempting to track the particles to discover their
points of origin, in the hope that will give clues on what happens in
space, particularly in unseen parts of the universe known as dark
matter. Before IceCube was completed in 2010, scientists had observed
just 14 neutrinos. With the huge new instrument, paired with another
telescope in the Mediterranean, hundreds of neutrinos have been
detected. So far, all of those have been created in the earth's
atmosphere, but scientists hope to eventually detect those from space.