Wednesday, February 9, 2011

IceCube opens up a window on energy in the universe

The world's newest astronomical observatory is defined by a field of 86 colored flags rippling across an ice-covered polar landscape. Each banner marks a line of glass-covered orbs that stretches down a mile and a half into the ice, like beads on a frozen string. Known as IceCube, this massive underground array is designed to do what no other observatory has done before - catch a glimpse of elusive neutrinos, ghostly particles that are formed in the hearts of supernovas, black holes and other deep-space objects and may give scientists new information about the origins of the universe. But IceCube is something different, an observatory built entirely beneath the ice. Along each of the 86 cables are strung 60 three-foot spherical detectors, called digital optical modules or DOMs. The world's newest astronomical observatory is defined by a field of 86 colored flags rippling across an ice-covered polar landscape. Each banner marks a line of glass-covered orbs that stretches down a mile and a half into the ice, like beads on a frozen string. The sophisticated electronics of the DOMs, which analyze faint light signals in place under the ice, were conceived, prototyped, tested, and demonstrated by Berkeley Lab scientists and engineers. More>