IceCube In-ice Antarctic Telescope 2010

Update

PolarConnect webinars were held with Katey Shirey and the Team from the IceCube: In-ice Antarctic Telescope project on 2 and 6 December 2010. [Access the Archives!](http://www.polartrec.com/polar-connect/archive)

What Are They Doing?

A large international team of scientists and drilling technicians will be working throughout the austral summer to continue to assemble and test the world's largest scientific instrument, the in-ice IceCube Neutrino Detector. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 10 million pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those on the Sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles or forces; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like the earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect. All neutrino detectors rely on observing the extremely rare instances when a neutrino does collide with a proton. This collision transforms the neutrino into a muon, a charged particle that can travel for 5-10 miles and generate detectable light.

IceCube is being constructed in Antarctica because the huge amount of dense ice under the South Pole contains a lot of protons that can be hit by passing neutrinos, and the ice is transparent, so the resulting light can be caught by sensors. IceCube is made up of 4200 sensitive light detectors embedded in the ice at depths between 1450 and 2450 meters (4700-8000 feet). The sensors are deployed on "strings" of 60 modules each, into holes 60 cm. in diameter in the ice melted using a hot water drill. Covering about one square kilometer, IceCube expands on an existing experiment that started detecting neutrinos at the South Pole in 1997. When IceCube is complete, it may detect up to 300,000 neutrinos a year for up to 20 years.

The data collected will be used to make a "neutrino map" of the universe and to learn more about astronomical phenomena, like gamma ray bursts, black holes, and exploding stars, and other aspects of nuclear and particle physics. However, the true potential of IceCube is discovery; the opening of each new astronomical window has led to unexpected discoveries.

Miss Shirey’s participation in PolarTREC and IceCube is in coordination with a wide array of teachers through the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation. These teachers have planned and practiced activities related to IceCube with students for the past two summers. They have coordinated activities and mini-experiments that were performed at the pole last winter by PolarTREC Teacher, Casey O'Hara. They have communicated across America and across the world with researchers, teachers, and other classes. Emphasizing communication and interconnectedness, Katey hopes that her trip to the Pole will involve even more classrooms and reach even more parts of America.

Where Are They?

The team will be working at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica—the southernmost continually inhabited place on the planet. The IceCube site is about one kilometer from the new South Pole station, which supplies the necessary logistics of food, power, and shelter. The South Pole is reached by plane from McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica from October through February when temperatures become too low for planes to safely operate. Approximately 50 people stay there the rest of the year, which is known as wintering over. IceCube has two to three people dedicated to overseeing the operation of the telescope during this period at the South Pole.

Expedition Map

Journals

Katey on the top of the ICL
It’s been nearly three months since I left the South Pole. When I am asked about the trip I recite my final conclusion about the Pole, “If I could go back tomorrow, I would.” Going to the South...
I'm very sad to leave Antarctica.
After one night in McMurdo it was time to leave. (It was actually November 9th when I left McMurdo.) I spent the evening walking around with some new friends in McMurdo and I was amazed by how much...
Julie Katch gives me an interview.
I returned to McMurdo Station from the South Pole and got my new room assignment, a shared 5 bed berth in the main station building. I arranged to meet up with my new friend Julie Katch whom I'd met...
Our IceTop team poses for one last picture.
Well, it's been a great visit, but it's time to go. With tears in my eyes I bid farewell to the South Pole. It has been a wonderful, curious, exciting, and rewarding time. I have enjoyed everything...
Next to the main IceTop terminal in the ICL.
The team in the lab gave me a nice tour of the IceCube Lab. This is the location of all the IceCube and IceTop computers, and where more than 5,000 DOMs have to link in. The room is heated by the...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

Dates: 13 November 2010 to 10 December 2010
Location: Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: IceCube Neutrino Lab

Meet the Team

Katey Shirey's picture
Washington-Lee High School
Arlington, VA
United States

Katey Shirey grew up loving physics and art and, as an undergraduate at the University of Virginia, she continually combined her two passions. She attempted to explain physics and physical phenomenon through large-scale kinetic sculptures and installations. Today Miss Shirey continues to examine the relationship of Physics to various aspects of the world around her through teaching and facilitating student learning at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia. She is excited to examine what scientists do and how science conducted far away impacts our understanding of the universe, and sees this as an ideal way to draw connections between physics to students' lives.

Jim Madsen's picture
University of Wisconsin River Falls
River Falls, WI
United States

Dr. Madsen is the chair of the Physics Department at UW-River Falls, and the Director of Education and Outreach for the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC). His research interests include heliophysics and astrophysics, which he has studied at his various projects in Antarctica. In addition to research, Dr. Madsen is committed to reaching a broad audience beyond the research community. He is involved in education and outreach for the IceCube project including professional development courses for teachers and science and math instruction for the UWRF Upward Bound Program. He collaborates with a number of programs and institutions in addition to PolarTREC, including the Knowles Science Teaching Foundation, UW-River Falls Upward Bound and McNair Programs, and service groups (Rotary International, Boy and Girl Scouts, university alumni associations, etc.). You can read more about Dr. Madsen's work here and here.