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IceCube Telescope Takes Shape Below Antarctic Ice 165

Posted by timothy
from the hard-mile-to-walk dept.
PabloSandoval48 writes "The world's largest telescope, currently under construction more than a mile beneath the Antarctic ice, is on schedule to be completed next year, according to a researcher at the University of Wisconsin, the lead institution for a scientific project called IceCube."
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IceCube Telescope Takes Shape Below Antarctic Ice

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  • N.W.A. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:17PM (#32680158)

    This IceCube project is part of a secret plan by the New World Alliance to take over current infrastructure.

  • IceCube? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:19PM (#32680186) Homepage

    What, the rapper?

    No, seriously. I think I remember reading about this earlier this year in Scientific American or something ... only it was on a big lake in Russia [thelivingmoon.com] and they worked during the winter when everything is frozen. Kind of cool, bleeding edge stuff.

    I gather that the one in the Antarctic will be bigger, and give a view in a different direction than the Russian one.

  • But... (Score:4, Funny)

    by jellomizer (103300) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:20PM (#32680210)

    We don't care about the Stars on the Southern hemisphere. Those are boring. The Northern Hemisphere stars are where its at.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:24PM (#32680286)

      IceCube is a neutrino telescope which looks through the Earth to the Northern Hemisphere. The Earth basically acts as a filter removing potential background signals.

    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      When you see the Southern Cross for the first time
      You understand just why you came this way

      They were just playing that song on the radio a few minutes ago. You've obviously never been near the equator, where the Southern Cross appears near the horizon after sunset.

    • That's ok. This telescope looks north.

    • Re:But... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Deep Penguin (73203) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @02:31PM (#32682214) Homepage Journal

      But that's what it sees - the sensors point at the Earth and the filter software discards muon events that track from the sky, keeping events that come from underneath since muons coming from the Northern Hemisphere decay long before they can reach the detector. Neutrinos survive passing through thousands of miles of rock, so if it comes from the middle of the Earth, it's a neutrino. If it comes from the sky, it could be a neutrino, but chances are, it's a muon.

    • by Trogre (513942)

      I'm guessing you've never seen the southern night sky :)

  • Who cares? (Score:5, Funny)

    by Captain Splendid (673276) * <capsplendid.gmail@com> on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:22PM (#32680258) Homepage Journal
    Call me when they find Megatron.
  • Not a telescope (Score:5, Informative)

    by wagnerrp (1305589) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:23PM (#32680268)
    This is an observatory, but not a telescope. It's an omnidirectional particle detector, not pointed at some distant star.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by zero.kalvin (1231372)
      It's the equivalent of telescope with a view range of 4*PI. You are looking everywhere at the same time.
    • Re:Not a telescope (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Steve Max (1235710) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:34PM (#32680438) Journal

      It can infer the direction a neutrino came from, so (given enough time) it can make "images". In fact, they've seen the moon [arxiv.org] already, as a deficit of neutrinos coming from the moon's direction. It is a telescope, just one that doesn't "see" photons and that you don't have to point at a target to see it.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        It is a telescope, just one that doesn't "see" photons

        Okay, I thinkI got it.

        and that you don't have to point at a target to see it.

        Now you're just screwing with me.

        • It's omni-directional. The detectors are placed in a way that it can detect the arrival of neutrinos coming from any direction (including, and specially, from below the horizon). This way, we can get a "whole sky" image at once, without moving anything in the experiment.

          • So what makes it a telescope more than say a bunch of eyeballs?

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Steve Max (1235710)

              It's ability to trace the sky using a carrier that was never explored in this way (except to "see" what happens in the sun, and during a nearby supernova).

              Using optical telescopes, we can get an image of how the universe looks in visible photons. In an x-ray telescope, we get an image of the universe in x-ray photons. In a cosmic ray telescope, we get an image in charged particles. IceCube (plus its northern sister, KM3Net) should be able to get an image of the universe in neutrinos with energies over 1 TeV

              • by AK Marc (707885)
                I think the point was that it may well be a scope, but from the descriptions given here, "telescope" doesn't seem right. Perhaps omniscope would be better.
          • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

            I thought it was using the the earth as a filter, and as such was basically "pointed" at the northern hemisphere?

            • Yes, that is why it detects "specially" what comes from below the horizon (or from the northern sky). However, they have some sensitivity to downgoing neutrinos (coming from above the horizon, or from the southern sky), if they arrive with an energy so high that the atmospheric muon background at those energies would be negligible. Or, being more technically correct, they use an array of cosmic ray detectors in the surface [udel.edu] to identify if an event whose energy is above a certain threshold and coming from "ab

        • and that you don't have to point at a target to see it.

          Now you're just screwing with me.

          You don't have to aim it at a target because it's already pointing in every direction all at once... just like a sphere.

      • Muons, not neutrinos (Score:5, Informative)

        by mangu (126918) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @01:12PM (#32681050)

        they've seen the moon already, as a deficit of neutrinos coming from the moon's direction.

        There's a deficit of muons, not neutrinos, from the moon's direction. Neutrinos pass through the moon easily.

      • The ability to make an image isn't the defining characteristic of a telescope. I can see the moon through my window, but it's no telescope.

        • Your eyes are a "telescope". We usually reserve the word for instruments that let us examine astrophysical objects in a way that we can't do with our naked eyes, but an optical telescope works in exactly the same way as your eyes. Just change the retina for a CCD.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by IceCubeComm (1841320)
        An event reconstruction from the 79 string detector configuration https://blog.icecube.wisc.edu/?p=1355 [wisc.edu]
    • by nmos (25822)

      ACK!! who the h*ll are they hiring over at EETimes these days?

    • This is an observatory, but not a telescope. It's an omnidirectional particle detector, not pointed at some distant star.

      Also, the part where it's not telescopic is a bit of a problem.

    • by COMON$ (806135)
      Yes, I read through the whole article looking for an explanation of why it is referred to as a telescope. Then I was scanning through these comments for someone to explain to me how this is a telescope, figuring somewhere there had to be a couple people duking out the actual meaning of telescope, or at least the difference between a telescope and a detector...why not a microscope...

      From Wikipedia

      A telescope is an instrument designed for the observation of remote objects by the collection of electromag

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Agreed, at least provisionally. A telescope is an instrument which "sees" objects at a "distance". Whether the mechanism is optical or otherwise is not the point, it's how effectively the device can give us information about specific distant objects.

      This array is more like a scintillation counter. It measures local phenomena. Perhaps, opportunistically, it could be used to infer something about distant objects, but in that sense it's still no more a telescope than a light bulb is a power meter.
  • Telescope? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:23PM (#32680278)

    I'm not sure that a neutrino detector is any more of a telescope than the sensor that decides when it's time for the lights to come on at night.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Steve Max (1235710)

      Why? It captures information from a flux of particles (not photons, but neutrinos in this case) emitted by astrophysical objects. It allows us to study properties of those objects (and of the detected particles as well). It doesn't have a resolution high enough to give us an "image" of most of those objects, but Hubble can't image most single stars too. IceCube won't give you a pretty picture for APOD, but it will do everything else we can do with an optical telescope, or a charged particle telescope such a

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by radtea (464814)

        Why? It captures information from a flux of particles (not photons, but neutrinos in this case) emitted by astrophysical objects.

        Because when speaking to a broad audience it behooves scientists to avoid terminology that they know will be confusing and misleading to laypeople. Anything else is an abrogation of their responsibility to communicate science clearly and unambiguously to the public.

        Besides, no one in these fields ever calls anything like this an (unqualified) telescope. So the purpose of doing so for a general audience seems to me to be solely to mislead and confuse, and I'm not at all clear why anyone would want to do th

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Besides, no one in these fields ever calls anything like this an (unqualified) telescope.

          Yeah, but they do say things like radio telescope or x-ray telescope, and those are very different from what most laypeople think of as a telescope. I certainly think that omitting the word "neutrino" was a big mistake, but does it go beyond that? The question is, can it be called a type of telescope?

          Curiously, the link you provide to Auger describes it as a "cosmic ray observatory", almost as if the people who create

        • Anything else is an abrogation of their responsibility to communicate science clearly and unambiguously to the public.

          The only time theres a 'responsibility' to communicate science 'clearly and unambiguously to the public' is when a government administration is trying to justify public spending on science to the electorate.

          And thats not a responsibility of the scientists.

          The scientist has a responsibility to communicate science clearly and unambiguously to OTHER SCIENTISTS.

      • by COMON$ (806135)
        actually it is looking at events created locally by neutrinos from my understanding, it isn't actually recording ANY remote events. Of course by this logic you could consider any telescope just to be recording particles that hit the telescope. But I maintain this is more of a microscope than a telescope.
        • > actually it is looking at events created locally by neutrinos from my
          > understanding, it isn't actually recording ANY remote events.

          And a CCD array just looks at events created locally by photons.

      • Why? It captures information from a flux of particles emitted by astrophysical objects.

        So does the sensor on my roof that detects sunlight, but I don't refer to that thing as a telescope. It's a sensor, or a detector, not a telescope.

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        Theoretically, you could toss a raw CCD on the floor and take a 180 degree picture. You'd need some fancy software that probably doesn't exist at the moment. But would it be a camera? Would it be a telescope? I assert neither, and that this observatory is neither as well.
    • Re:Telescope? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by necro81 (917438) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:51PM (#32680702) Journal
      I wondered about this, too. I don't think that telescope is incorrect, exactly, but it would be better perhaps to call it an Observatory.

      The key feature of a telescope as I interpret the word is amplification of visual phenomena. It makes tiny things seem big. Perhaps the nitpickers would say that the main feature of a telescope is that it can resolve finer and finer details - I'd say that's the same thing. An ancillary of this is that it tends to gather a large amount of otherwise feeble light from some small field-of-view so that, when that field of view is zoomed in to occupy the whole of a sensor (a camera, the eye, etc.) there is still something there to see.

      This neutrino detector doesn't have any sort of magnification in that sense. It doesn't even work in the electromagnetic spectrum! It's purpose isn't to zoom in on a phenomenon, but to detect it and tell us where it came from. It doesn't zoom in. By that token I would say that it is an observatory, not a telescope. It does, however, have light amplification through the use of photomultipliers. And, by virtue of its size, can be thought of as having better resolving power and sensitivity than its predecessors. By measuring neutron flux intensity as a function of angular position, it should be able to produce a sky map much that those from more conventional (optical, radio, IR) telescopes. Does this make it a telescope? I don't know.

      For comparison, the Compton Gamma Ray Observatory [wikipedia.org] faced a similar challenge: it didn't have an aperture or light gathering and focusing mirrors common to "telescopes" of other wavelengths. It is not possible to do that with any materials we're familiar with - gamma rays are absorbed or pass right through; there can be no reflectance or refraction. GRO was, much like this neutrino experiment, a target that waited for gamma rays to pass through. Once they did the instruments would figure out their energy and where in the sky their originated from. Notice that they called it an "observatory", not a "telescope."
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by mrops (927562)

        I think amplification is the wrong criteria to define a telescope, a better criteria would be "convergence" or "focusing" of whatever spectrum we are looking at. That is the only common theme I can see in a Telescope, they all converge large amount of spectrum to a focal point. This may not be in a physical sense and may be done inside of a computer via munging of captured data from various physical detectors.

        In that respect, I still come to the same conclusion, that this is not a telescope.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          This may not be in a physical sense and may be done inside of a computer via munging of captured data from various physical detectors.

          In that respect, I still come to the same conclusion, that this is not a telescope.

          Um, if you accept that a telescope need not focus by using physical reflection but by combining data from multiple detectors distributed over an area, then this would most definitely be a telescope in that respect.

          If we must for some reason draw a distinction between traditional telescopes and

        • > That is the only common theme I can see in a Telescope, they all converge
          > large amount of spectrum to a focal point. This may not be in a physical
          > sense and may be done inside of a computer via munging of captured data from
          > various physical detectors.

          That's what this device does.

      • The key feature of a telescope as I interpret the word is amplification of visual phenomena. It makes tiny things seem big.

        This neutrino detector doesn't have any sort of magnification in that sense. It doesn't even work in the electromagnetic spectrum! It's purpose isn't to zoom in on a phenomenon, but to detect it and tell us where it came from. It doesn't zoom in.

        Sure it does. It allows you to take a source of infrequent interactions and amplifies them by increasing the size of the detector. This is wh

        • I think it's correct to call IceCube an observatory, but not a telescope. All telescopes are observatories, but the inverse isn't true. Observatory is a broad term (my house can be an observatory), but telescope refers to a specific kind of instrument (I definitely do not live in a telescope).

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            That was the point of my last paragraph... Observatories are facilities that contain astronomical instruments. But you don't call the instrument itself an observatory whether that instrument is a telescope or not.

            There should be no dispute whatsoever that IceCube is an observatory. But I think it is fair to call it a neutrino telescope as well.

          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            In any case, the U. Wisc. team that is running the project calls it a telescope [wisc.edu]. So I'm going with that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:32PM (#32680412)

    Did anybody else imagine a huge lense made of ice like they made in Mythbusters to light a fire?

  • by AnAdventurer (1548515) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:52PM (#32680710)
    Anyone/anything will wonder what on earth [sic] this is.
    • > Anyone/anything will wonder what on earth [sic] this is.

      Especially after the ice melts and it's all lying in a tangled mess on the ground.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Well, it will be quite apparent that it is our ill-advised polar ice-cap melting apparatus, which was ultimately the cause of our downfall.

  • by Joe The Dragon (967727) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @01:00PM (#32680860)

    so The chair is really still there?

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday June 24, 2010 @01:06PM (#32680982)
    Straight outta Antarctica?
  • I'm not so sure if this can be considered the largest. What about the VLA or LIGO?
    • I think it qualifies readily as most voluminous.

  • A mile down?
    Beneath arctic ice?
    And a cable's come loose?

    Hummer 4 announced at low, low cost! Buy three today!

  • Ice Cube? (Score:3, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @03:30PM (#32683090)
    Personally, I welcome our hip hop astronomer overlords.
  • How will they get past the Predator pyramid and avoid the Aliens?? Seems like a big risk to me.

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