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Space Earth

A Telescope In a Cubic Kilometer of Ice 118

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-research-group-that-brought-you-donvier dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "University of Delaware (UD) scientists and engineers are currently working at the South Pole under very harsh conditions. This research team is one of the many other ones working on the construction of IceCube, the world's largest neutrino telescope in the Antarctic ice, far beneath the continent's snow-covered surface. When it is completed in 2011, the telescope array will occupy a cubic kilometer of Antarctica. One of the lead researchers said that 'IceCube will provide new information about some of the most violent and far-away astrophysical events in the cosmos.' The UD team has even opened a blog to cover this expedition. It will be opened up to December 22, 2008. I guess they want to be back in Delaware for Christmas, but read more for additional details and references, including a diagram of this telescope array built inside ice."
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A Telescope In a Cubic Kilometer of Ice

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  • by pwnies (1034518) * <j@jjcm.org> on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @06:54PM (#26067261) Homepage Journal
    I gotta say, just based on personal experience here, that the outlook for this project doesn't look good. The last underground science facility I worked at over in Raccoon City just didn't work out in the long run.
  • Nutrinoes! (Score:2, Funny)

    by Jonah Bomber (535788)
    Who doesn't love 'em!
  • Bullcrap! (Score:5, Funny)

    by cashman73 (855518) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:06PM (#26067405) Journal
    Yeah, it's a telescope alright! Ha! Ha! I got $500 that says they found a second Stargate down there!
    • Fools! Don't they know it will just interfere with the first stargate?!?

      Er... I mean... starwhat now? Nonsense, we don't have a stargate, and we don't send Macgyver to other planets through it!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by maxume (22995)

        Not since he let himself go anyway.

      • Does not matter. McGyver can always build another stargate out of a roll of tinfoil, a bowl of vinegar/oil salad sauce, a golden hairpin, and some dust.

        • Does not matter. McGyver can always build another stargate out of a roll of tinfoil, a bowl of vinegar/oil salad sauce, a golden hairpin, and some dust.

          It was actually a Stargate power amplifier, but yeah.

  • Cool! (Score:1, Funny)

    by syngularyx (1070768)
    This is exactly what I mean by a really cool thing!
  • by line-bundle (235965) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:25PM (#26067565) Homepage Journal

    Definitely Ice Cube http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ice_Cube [wikipedia.org] won't like it.

    Perhaps time to call in the RIAA and fix this.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Chris Burke (6130)

      Ooh, the temptation to alter the wiki pages to say Ice Cube is the spokesperson for the neutrino detector is huge... Must... resist... Vandalism... bad...

  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:29PM (#26067613)

    By the time it is finished, it will be in a cubic kilometer of water.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by gmuslera (3436)
      I bet in 2015 environmentalists will blame global warming for the extintion of the last ice telescope in the wild.
      • I bet in 2015 environmentalists will blame global warming for the extintion of the last ice telescope in the wild.

        My first thought when reading the story is "Where the f*ck are all the environmentalists?"

        It's apparently ok to screw around with a cubic kilometer of ice and wildlife for a telescope, but it's not ok to take up 0.2 kilometers for an oil rig...and notice I didn't say 'square'.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by dangitman (862676)

          "Where the f*ck are all the environmentalists?"

          On ice.

        • Environmentalists don't really complain about the idea of building one oil rig. Of those who are against, say, ANWR drilling, they mostly complain about building many oil rigs, and all the road and pipeline infrastructure needed to support them. Also, there isn't really any wildlife at the South Pole, other than assorted gnats.

          • Environmentalists don't really complain about the idea of building one oil rig. Of those who are against, say, ANWR drilling, they mostly complain about building many oil rigs, and all the road and pipeline infrastructure needed to support them. Also, there isn't really any wildlife at the South Pole, other than assorted gnats.

            The size of land they are talking about using in the ANWR has been compared to a postage stamp on a football field.

            No matter what we do, wherever we do it, there will be an impact to the environment, or some species. But we can't stop everything we do because it will effect a frog, or herd of caribou or whatever. On the other hand, we can't be totally irresponsible either.

            • The size of land they are talking about using in the ANWR has been compared to a postage stamp on a football field.

              I am sure it has been compared to that, but is it a correct comparison? I don't know. The right number is "ecological impact", not "land surface area", but it's probably hard to quantify. From a surface area perspective, it should include not only the area taken up by the drilling apparatus, but also by support buildings, roads, pipelines, etc. From a non-areal perspective, it needs to account for the ecosystems affected, including any rare species, distant populations whose migratory pathways may be i

              • Drilling in ANWR would make money for oil companies, but the consumer isn't going to see any of that oil within the next decade or two

                First off, you make it sound like oil companies earning money is wrong. I don't know about you, but when I start a business, I expect to make money. No one starts a business to lose money.

                Second, Shell is saying the time from start to pumping oil would be less than 6 months. That oil would be on the market in less than a year.

                There are very few truly unspoiled wildlife refuges left in the U.S. Is it worth it to develop part of one for limited benefits? That's unclear to me. Of course, the drilling doesn't affect the whole area, but it's yet another encroachment on one of the few remaining protected areas

                That's true. Personally, I'm all against the federal government setting aside any land for any purpose that isn't in the constitution. Now if the states set it aside, I'd be m

                • First off, you make it sound like oil companies earning money is wrong. I don't know about you, but when I start a business, I expect to make money. No one starts a business to lose money.

                  I'm not saying oil companies earning money is wrong. I'm saying that I don't really care if THEY benefit from the oil. I care if society benefits, and if I benefit. If it makes oil companies richer but not me or the average citizen, then that changes my opinion of the value of the activity. So I have to ask, is the change in oil price that the consumer sees (e.g., in gas prices) worth the drawbacks of the activity? I'm sure if I was an oil executive whose salary depends on oil profits, my cost-benefit

                  • I'm not saying oil companies earning money is wrong. I'm saying that I don't really care if THEY benefit from the oil. I care if society benefits, and if I benefit.

                    That sounds like a great plan. How do I sign up for not lifting a finger all the while benefiting from another human being's labor? (Maybe I'm misunderstanding what you're saying, but that's how your statement comes across to me...)

                    So I have to ask, is the change in oil price that the consumer sees (e.g., in gas prices) worth the drawbacks of the activity? I'm sure if I was an oil executive whose salary depends on oil profits, my cost-benefit analysis would run rather differently.

                    Of course it would differ. An oil company executive (regardless of what he negotiated as a paycheck) is there to support the share holders. Part of my retirement fund invests in 'big oil'. So of course I want them to make a profit. On the other hand, I don't want it to be

                    • How do I sign up for not lifting a finger all the while benefiting from another human being's labor?

                      You're totally missing the point. I didn't say that I wanted to get rich off their oil and let them have nothing. I said that I don't support drilling if the oil companies get rich but nobody ELSE benefits. If they drill in ANWR and the average citizen doesn't see any large lasting impact on prices, and we don't seriously reduce our dependence on foreign oil from it, why is this a good idea compared to its drawbacks?

                      Who are you going to trust--a bunch of government bureaucrats or the people who actually do the work daily?

                      I would trust the DOE over an oil company any day when it comes to this sort of analysis.

        • by StarkRG (888216)

          Um, so oil rigs are 0.2 kilometers long and have no width?

          And the difference here is impact, very little actually lives IN the ice, so as long as you don't impact the surface or the base of the ice you won't be harming anyone.

          Also, if somehow it exploded all we'd get are shards of ice and pools of water not gigantic oil spills...

          I'm not saying you're wrong*, just that your arguments are.

          *though, incidentally, you are.

          • Um, so oil rigs are 0.2 kilometers long and have no width?

            I have no clue how big oil rigs are--but I'm betting they aren't 1 sq. kilometer. And about 10 seconds after I posted that, I realized my mistake--for some stupid reason, I was thinking the telescope measurements were cubed, not squared. Totally retarded.

            Also, if somehow it exploded all we'd get are shards of ice and pools of water not gigantic oil spills...

            I don't think you should drive a car. If it suddenly exploded while you were driving, it could impact local wildlife...

            The point I'm trying to make is this--do you know how many oil rigs 'suddenly explode'? And the argument that we shouldn't constru

            • by StarkRG (888216)

              I've had this discussion so many times I've come to the conclusion that some people just can't be convinced.

              The reason I think drilling for oil is dumb is because it's an old technology (burning stuff to get the energy out), we really need to move beyond it.

              Asbestos was thought to be the perfect building material, as we've discovered, it is not. Lead was thought to be a great material as it didn't corrode, it was only later we discovered it was highly toxic. Leaded gasoline was considered more environmental

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by darkpixel2k (623900)

                I've had this discussion so many times I've come to the conclusion that some people just can't be convinced.

                The reason I think drilling for oil is dumb is because it's an old technology (burning stuff to get the energy out), we really need to move beyond it.

                Man, that argument takes the cake.
                You think drilling for oil is dumb because it's an old technology. The first oil well is debated as being sometime around 1820.

                Maybe you also think using a telephone is dumb? Telephone's came about around 1875.

                How about airplanes? 1853. Are they stupid too?

                Sorry--you've lost me. With a dumb statement and logic like that, I can't even bring myself to read the rest of your post--I'd have to punch myself in the face several times just to stay conscious.

            • by argiedot (1035754)
              The Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations [nsf.gov] for IceCube are available online for free. If you feel that there is something in there that requires attention or if there is something there that people have previously objected to in the case of oil rigs then you really should mention that.

              If you read the full CEE there, you should be able to know why. I suggest you read section 5.3 alone, if the whole document is daunting, since that describes the environmental effects and that section is followed by a descr
              • The Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations [nsf.gov] for IceCube are available online for free. If you feel that there is something in there that requires attention or if there is something there that people have previously objected to in the case of oil rigs then you really should mention that.

                Ok--you called my bluff. I really don't feel like wasting my time reading through a 10 MB PDF. Especially if it's from the NSF. Another dumb government agency that has everything to benefit from saying there are science-type problems which need more study--like oil drilling, global warming, etc... They are not an unbiased agency.

                If you read the full CEE there, you should be able to know why. I suggest you read section 5.3 alone, if the whole document is daunting, since that describes the environmental effects and that section is followed by a description of procedures taken to mitigate those.

                I started reading section 5.2. I gained consciousness a few moments ago at the end of the first paragraph. I won't argue that this has more or less of an impact than an oil

                • by argiedot (1035754)
                  Ha ha, no no. What I meant was that the question, "Where the f*ck are all the environmentalists?" makes no sense without saying why the environmentalists should be making a fuss.

                  I would assume that they read this document, and found the results satisfactory.

                  PS: Slashdot strips the <q> tag?
                  • by argiedot (1035754)
                    Whoops, my mistake. I did not quite pick up on the tone of your comment the first time around. It is obvious that you won't accept the evaluation of a government agency, since you feel they are biased. In which case, the answer to your question, "Where the fuck are all the environmentalists?" is, "They believe that the NSF CEE is acceptable, and they believe that the NSF is credible."
                • They are not an unbiased agency.

                  You're hilarious.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by textstring (924171)

      You surely mean 0.92km^3 of water, don't you?

  • Big Science (Score:1, Insightful)

    by QuantumG (50515) *

    I know I'm ignorant, but I just don't understand how physicists managed to get from the Manhattan project to here. Yes, the Manhattan project showed that if you put great minds together they can achieve great things.. but that was in war time.. and for weapons development. How did the lab coats manage to convince the bean counters that the same thing was possible in peace time.. and for pure science no less? And how come it's always physics physics physics? And mostly, telescopes? If someone goes to th

    • Re:Big Science (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ambitwistor (1041236) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:35PM (#26067687)

      And how come it's always physics physics physics?

      That's the science where you have to build the biggest equipment, because big equipment is needed to study the extremely small or the extremely large (particle physics and astronomy).

      Biomedicine/genomics is slowly starting to encroach on physics in terms of Big Science. But there is also tons of science which is not Big Science.

      And mostly, telescopes?

      Telescopes and particle accelerators. See above.

      If someone goes to the NSF and asks for billions to build a really big computer to do AI research on, the NSF tells them to go talk to IBM.

      The NSF mostly funds science (national Science foundation). Computer science doesn't get as much of a priority with them, since it's more mathematics/engineering.

      Also, with a billion-dollar particle accelerator, people are likely to discover new fundamental things about the universe we live in. With a billion-dollar computer, can we guarantee any breakthroughs in AI? I don't know that hardware is the limiting factor here.

      • big equipment is needed to study the extremely small or the extremely large (particle physics and astronomy)

        I should clarify that this is certainly not always the case: there is a lot of astronomy and even particle physics that you can still do without enormous resources. But there are some things that just require giant experiments, because of the scale of the problem.

      • by Anpheus (908711)

        The Department of Energy is a major source of government funding for big computer systems. There are others, but I believe they're the largest.

    • by fenodyree (802102)
      Suppose you have bills, bills, bills to pay. It would be optimal for the future (ie, your credit rating) to get them paid. Now, imagine some random guys, really rich guys, are willing to pay some of the bills for you, leaving you to only pay for a few bills the rich guys won't pony up for. What are you going to do?

      Not particularly interesting actually, simple dollars and sense, perhaps it does not sit well that you might have to work for the evil industry, with all their "agendas", but it gets the job don
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by rcw-home (122017)

      Where's the IBM of telescopes?

      That's kinda like asking "Where's the IBM of marble sculpture?"

      You can mass-produce ICs. If you've found a way to mass-produce large parabolic or hyperbolic wavelength-accurate mirrors, well, you should definitely submit that one to Slashdot, OK?

      • by Ken_g6 (775014)

        You can mass-produce ICs. If you've found a way to mass-produce large parabolic or hyperbolic wavelength-accurate mirrors, well, you should definitely submit that one to Slashdot, OK?

        Well, come to think of it, you probably could take a silicon wafer and etch it into a Fresnel mirror [wikipedia.org]. Of course, this would be a very expensive mirror, and only about 12 inches [wikipedia.org] in diameter maximum.

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      Probably because if you went to NSF and said "I could make a breakthrough in AI research, if only I had a powerful enough computer", they would (most likely correctly) not believe you. If you go to them and said "I could make a breakthrough in astrophysics, if only I had a big enough neutrino detector", they would.

    • And how come it's always physics physics physics?

      http://xkcd.com/435/ [xkcd.com]

  • by Tumbleweed (3706) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @07:29PM (#26067625)

    Don't take in stray sled dogs from nearby camps. Shoot them before they can get close to your camp, then burn the bodies. I'm just sayin'...

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by spsheridan (237007)

      My understanding is that The Thing is required viewing at the start of each Winter Season at the South Pole research station - if you think about who actually would spend a winter at the south pole I think you can see why they would be all over this kind of thing.

      • Whilst we're on the topic, I have actually seen both the original from the 50s and the John Carpenter version, and do yourself a favour - if you ever get curious about the 50s version, don't. Seriously, just don't. A perfect example of, "What has been seen cannot be UNseen."

        Instead, go on a John Carpenter binge and watch 'Prince of Darkness' and 'Big Trouble in Little China,' and save yourself a lot of grief while being vastly entertained.

        • by ErkDemon (1202789)
          Yep, in the 1950 version, the constant stream of clever-clever snappy machine-gun-delivery "Howard Hawks" dialogue is distracting. You shouldn't be watching a horror film and being reminded of Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant in "Bringing up Baby"! It's kinda like you're watching Alien, but with constant additional dialogue by Carl Sagan and Groucho Marx.

          "An intellectual carrot! The mind boggles."
          Hmm.

          I guess with the 1950's version, you either watch it with the sound almost down, or you forget about t

  • This is a neutrino detector [wikipedia.org]. It is not a telescope. It works by detecting electrons or muons created when neutrinos hit the surrounding ice.

    • Re:Not a telescope. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by spsheridan (237007) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @08:24PM (#26068271)

      I guess a telescope isn't a telescope, it's a light detector. It detects light that hits it mirrors...

      These neutrino telescopes work by detecting Cherenkov Radiation created by the collision by-products and then determining the track of the particle that is emmiting the Cherenkov Radiation. The momentum of the original Neutrino is conserved so the track of the by-product is very close to the original trajectory.

      You filter out downward tracks because they are generally caused by atmospheric cosmic radiation - the earth is basically your filter here, only neutrino's will be coming up through the earth. It's called a telescope because they hope to be able to correlate neutrino tracks with actual stellar objects - once the detector is large enough (hence the cubic kilometer size) there should be a sufficient cross section of matter to have a regular set of interactions from persistent neutrino sources.

      This is an extension of the AMANDA research project, they drilled the original series of test holes in the 90's to prove the process would work - I helped build some of the detector equipment back in Wisconsin while I was an undergrad there.

      • by kwikrick (755625)

        sure it is:

        tele = far
        scope = see

        it detects (sees) events taking place far away.

        Although Wikipedia defines a telescope as:

        "an instrument designed for the observation of remote objects by the collection of electromagnetic radiation"

        I suppose neutrinos are not technically electromagnetic radiation.

    • by aXis100 (690904)

      And a CCD pixel is just a photon detector ....

      But if you have enough of them and the geometrey is right, you can reconstruct where they cam from and develop an image. I'd say this is a telescope too, just not an optical one.

    • by emmons (94632)

      And not led by UD. Wisconsin gets credit for this one: http://icecube.wisc.edu/

  • Why aren't the enviros screaming that the telescope is somehow going to destroy a fragile ecosystem and lead to extinction of one or more endangered species, a la ANWR?
  • Scintillating!
  • This is a huge project with a long list of collaborating organizations http://www.icecube.wisc.edu/collaboration/collaborators.php [wisc.edu]. I know there's a large number of Ice Cube folks here at U Wisconsin-Madison.

    The scale of the project really is something. Neutrinos interact with other matter very infrequently -- something on the order of 60 billion neutrinos pass through you each second, and you probably never noticed. They need such a large volume so that they can see a reasonable number of interactions. It'

  • Apparently there is a northern counterpart to this: ANTARES [wikipedia.org], though the article on Km3net [wikipedia.org] says that that is a pilot project for Km3net.
  • Delawhere? (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I'm from Delaware and I don't want to go back for Christmas! Even Antartica is probably a step up...

  • So, how long will they have to use this thing before global warming causes it to start melting?

  • by therufus (677843) on Wednesday December 10, 2008 @10:07PM (#26069365)

    'IceCube will provide new information about some of the most violent and far-away astrophysical events in the cosmos.'

    So NWA have a new album out? O.o

    • by xtremee (739126)
      I didn't read TFA but let me guess: This "IceCube" telescope is being built by Doctor Dre, funded by an Arabian Prince and it should be Eazy-E.

      Yella(t) your friends about this, looks pretty cool.
  • by HoneyBeeSpace (724189) on Thursday December 11, 2008 @12:24AM (#26070599) Homepage

    I was there last year. For some pics of the detectors and the hot water drill used to lower the detector strings see http://spacebit.org/v/places/Antarctica/SouthPole [spacebit.org]

    The drill seems straight out of Austin Powers or Bond for drilling into the core of the earth.

    The visualization software (image above) was running on Linux FYI.

    • by dafz1 (604262)

      I work with the engineers who built the TWO drill heads(UW Physical Sciences Lab [wisc.edu]). The one in your picture is the Firn drill [wisc.edu], which "drills" (really melts) it's way through the first 50 feet of snow. The cooler drill is the enhanced hot water drill [wisc.edu], which uses hot water to blast through the ice to a depth of 2,400 meters. The reason for two separate drills is the hot water drill isn't efficient at going through the firn layer, as the water seeps away. Also, having two drills greatly reduces drilling time

  • you can do it put your back into it!
    • by Canazza (1428553)
      put your ass in to it... I spend 6 months being forced to listen to that tripe on the office radio... and I hate you for bringing it up. i'd +funny if i could :)
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday December 11, 2008 @08:39AM (#26073375) Homepage

    A word of advice: If you wake any squid-headed star-spawned monstrosity deep beneath the mountains of madness, run.

  • This research team is one of the many other ones

    Whoah, we're talking seriously reality-twisting science here.

  • I thought they said it was cold? It was -38F when I left for work this morning. Check out the weather for Winnipeg Canada @ http://www.theweathernetwork.com/weather/camb0244 [theweathernetwork.com] Note: -40F =-40C and 1C ~ 1.5F.
    • by Aardpig (622459)
      Yeah -- but its summer down at the South Pole right now!
    • Of course they said it was cold. Every newsie knows that you have to whoop about the cold when writing about Antarctica, no matter how irrelevant the weather is to the story.

  • If this thing has decent angular resolution, I bet the military is looking at this very closely. The super-Kamiokande (or was it the Sudbury) neutrino detector was able to 'see' operating reactors from their neutrino flux. How cool would it be to be able to detect and get a fix on rogue reactors and nuclear subs?

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