NSF/B. Gudbjartsson, IceCube Collaboration
Published: February 24, 2011
Floating around us at all times, there are tiny subatomic particles moving so fast it's nearly impossible to detect them. Scientists believe that these ghostly particles, called neutrinos, might even be able to pass straight through earth without ever running into another atom. Determined to trace these elusive neutrinos, researches in Antarctica have built a contraption to do just that: The IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
In December, technicians finished installing more than 5,000 light-detectors deep in the ice below the South Pole. On the rare occasion when a neutrino collides with an atom in the ice, it will produce a flash of light that these detectors can record. Over time, astronomers can study these neutrino flashes to learn about the black holes, exploding stars and other exotic places in the universe where the neutrinos originated.
While diving into the world of neutrino science, we discovered the eerie sci-fi-ish world of neutrino detectors. These Kubrick-esque detectors can be filled with water, ice, chlorine, gallium and thousands of phototubes waiting for a reaction to occur between an otherworldly neutrino and boring old normal particle. [Copyright 2013 NPR]