In Antarctica, scientists have built the largest neutrino detector, which can catch cosmic neutrinos from billions of light-years away.
This Detector Can Catch Cosmic Neutrinos
Published: October 13, 2021
Narrator: At the South Pole, scientists have built the largest neutrino detector on the planet. It’s made of more than 5,000 sensors, drilled into a cubic kilometer of Antarctic ice. It’s known as IceCube.
Kael Hanson: IceCube is in this, this huge field around me. I’m kind of standing in the middle of IceCube.
It’s kind of amazing to think that we were able to haul something like 5,000,000 pounds of cargo down to the South Pole. This is instrumentation, cables, drill equipment, fuel.
Narrator: As well as probing neutrino oscillations, IceCube acts like a neutrino telescope, catching cosmic neutrinos from billions of light years away.
Kael Hanson: This is the universe that has really only been opened to our eyes for the last 50 years. There’s all kinds of discoveries that are waiting out there.
Narrator: With new experiments like IceCube, scientists believe that neutrinos may reveal discoveries beyond the Standard Model. Neutrinos could even help unlock one of the biggest mysteries in physics today: it seems that most of what our universe is made of is missing.
Kerstin Perez: The whole quest of particle physics is to explain the matter contents of the universe. And we seem to be doing this phenomenally good job. You crank through the math of the Standard Model, and everything makes sense, and yet, it only describes some very small fraction of what the universe is made out of.
Narrator: Looking into space, cosmologists can see the gravitational influence of a material that binds entire galaxies together but that is completely invisible to their detectors. Scientists call this material “dark matter,” because nothing in the Standard Model can describe what it is. And yet it seems to be what most of the matter in the universe is made of.
Frank Close: The Standard Model is very good at describing about five percent of the universe. Ninety-five percent of the stuff is utter, complete mystery, made of dark stuff, whether it’s dark matter or dark energy. And what either of those are, we don’t know.
Kerstin Perez: All we really know about dark matter is that it creates gravity. But it’s not interacting with the instruments that we have used to observe the universe.
David Kaiser: Whatever is filling space, there’s much more of it than the ordinary matter that makes up us and our planet and our stars. It’s some other, other kind of particle.
Narrator: Whatever dark matter particles are, scientists must look beyond the Standard Model to find them. Neutrinos might be the key.
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