Scientists build largest neutrino detector

    University of Delaware scientists are down in Antarctica building a machine that may be able to detect particles from outer space that are almost undetectable.

    University of Delaware scientists are down in Antarctica building a machine that may be able to detect particles from outer space that are almost undetectable.

    WHYY’s science reporter Kerry Grens checked in with one of the technicians.

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    Transcript:

    At the South Pole station there’s 24 hours of sunshine.

    It might sound nice to us in the northern hemisphere, but it’s also 16 below zero and windy.

    James Roth is a University of Delaware technician building the Ice Cube detector. He says this environment is perfect to capture neutrinos — one of the most elusive elementary particles traveling through space.

    Roth: They’re not affected by magnetic fields, and most of the time they pass through whatever’s in their way. That’s why they’re so hard to detect. Most of them pass right through the earth without being detected.

    But neutrinos do sometimes interact with ice and spark a tiny flash of detectable light, so Roth and his colleagues are taking advantage of the Antarctic’s 2 miles of deep clear ice.

    Roth: That’s why we need a very very large detector. So Ice Cube will use a cubic kilometer of the Antarctic ice cap outfitted with these detectors to detect a few of these neutrinos that we can catch.

    The Ice Cube detector will help scientists research the fundamentals of particle physics and cosmic rays.

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