Sun or moon? From the photo it’s hard to tell. It sure looks like a bright sunny day, but this is the South Pole, where it’s still winter and the sun has not yet returned. That’s the moon lighting up the sky—amazing how bright it can seem.
IceCube Current News
It’s the photographer’s trifecta for wintering at the South Pole—a shot of the sky with a star-studded background, a nice aurora effect, and the Milky Way visible. You can’t beat that.
In a new analysis by the IceCube Collaboration, a search for faint point sources, by looking for small-scale anisotropies in the diffuse neutrino flux, was found to be consistent with the background expectation. These results have just been submitted to Astroparticle Physics.
The auroras tell you it’s winter at the South Pole—you can’t see auroras there during the summer because the sun is out the whole time. But in winter, the folks who station at the South Pole get to witness these auroras in all their glory.
It looks as if the smoke stacks are releasing a plume of green smoke along with their stream of exhaust, but it’s just an artifact of the camera angle. The green splash across the sky reminds us that it’s still aurora season at the South Pole.
Winter is long at the South Pole, at least when measured by the last plane out and the first plane back in. That’s roughly eight to nine months with no one (and no things) coming or going, quite a long period of isolation for the 40 or so winterovers at the station. You need a large store of provisions to cover the crew’s needs during that time.
How to make any 4th of July celebration special? Start with a dish decorated in red, white and blue.
Since bundling up to go outdoors is a bit of an ordeal, you don’t want to have to make unnecessary trips out to the ICL if you can avoid it. But there were a few of those unavoidable trips for the IceCube winterovers this past week. One was to replace a modem because of problems with an Iridium link.
In a joint analysis by the IceCube, LIGO and Virgo collaborations to be submitted to the journal Physical Review D, researchers aimed to identify GW events and high-energy neutrinos that could originate from the same astrophysical source and to determine their joint significance. No significant coincident events were found, but the search allowed researchers to derive upper limits on the rate of joint sources for a range of source emission parameters.
Last week we mentioned that they were celebrating midwinter at the South Pole, but we didn’t really cover all the festivities. First, there was the traditional viewing of “The Shining,” Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror movie about an off-season caretaker in an isolated (also cold and white) location.
The quest for galactic halo dark matter includes high-energy neutrino searches that might be produced by the self-annihilation of dark matter particles in our galaxy. If this is the case, IceCube should observe a characteristic anisotropy in the neutrino flux due to the additional dark-matter induced neutrinos. So far, the IceCube Collaboration has not found any significant deviation from the background expectation, following new results that have been submitted today to The European Physical Journal C.
The IceCube Collaboration presents several searches for extended and point-like astrophysical neutrino sources using four years of data. No evidence of neutrino emission has been found yet, but a few models have been ruled out. This research has been submitted today to The Astrophysical Journal.
Life at the Pole may be different than life elsewhere, but some things are the same just about everywhere. One of those things is celebrating holidays. Who knows? Maybe holidays are even more important when you live in small, isolated communities. Last week, at the South Pole and all over Antarctica, they were celebrating midwinter, a cultural event held in many places around the world in recognition of the winter solstice, an astronomical occurrence.
This photograph of the ICL (IceCube Lab) almost looks as if it’s set against an artificial backdrop, but it is just the eerie effect of the sky lit by a rising moon.
Dag Larsen and Ian Rees arrived at the South Pole in November 2013. The brand-new winterovers had already been working for IceCube for a few weeks in Madison, learning all the ins and outs of their new job. Now they were ready to take over for Blaise Kuo Tiong and Felipe Pedreros, who had been at the Pole maintaining the detector for the previous 12 months.
Some very bright auroras have been unfolding in the sky above the South Pole lately. But that doesn’t mean the only way to see an aurora is by looking upward. Here’s an aurora reflected in the metallic sphere atop the marker at the ceremonial South Pole.
It looks like IceCube winterover Ian Rees is back to taking photographs. A good thing, too, or we wouldn’t have gotten this image of a nice aurora filling up the sky over the ICL.
The 26th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics, Neutrino 2014, starts today and includes presentations from several IceCube researchers. The conference runs through June 7 in Boston, Massachusetts.
A bright moon hovers above a row of summer camp buildings at the South Pole. It’s not summer there now, of course, but with such a brightly lit sky, the winterovers may be having flashbacks to a time not so long ago when the sun shone down on this camp. They still have a way to go before the sun rises here again, with lots of photos to take in the meantime.
What better time and place for an outdoor astronomy class than midwinter at the South Pole? Clear skies present a group of expectant gazers with a multitude of stars for their viewing pleasure.
Strong evidence for a very high energy neutrino flux of extraterrestrial origin was found in November 2013, and new data from IceCube now confirms the discovery. Once more, the Antarctic detector brings us still the highest energy neutrino ever observed.
The IceCube collaboration is launching a new activity for high school students, the IceCube Masterclass. Students will learn about neutrinos and what they tell us about the universe while also learning about a unique experiment: IceCube, a cubic-kilometer neutrino detector buried in Antarctica’s ice
It helps for IceCube winterovers to be handy and versatile. With no incoming supplies during the winter months, they have to make do with what they have on hand—if they need a new tool, they craft it, or if something breaks (or rips), they fix it.
Around mid-May each year, new detector configurations are applied to IceCube to keep up its performance and to improve scientific results. Last week, on May 6, the IC86-2014 physics run was launched.
Now there’s a flashy aurora! You know (and it’s not hard to imagine), they say a photo really can’t do justice to these aurora australis—to how impressive they really are when viewed in person.
This is what the ICL porch looks like as it gets darker outside, bathed in red light (just two short weeks ago things looked a bit different). For the benefit of research projects that monitor the sky during winter darkness, outdoor lighting at the South Pole is minimized and kept to a red spectrum, which reduces interference.
See anything? Well, there is something there, in this season's first photo of an aurora from the IceCube winterovers. Many more aurora shots to come, guaranteed.
The one-day workshop "Neutrinos Beyond IceCube" is being held today in Arlington, Virginia. The workshop brings in experts to review and discuss potential enhancements to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
The IceCube Laboratory (ICL) is home to a computer complex that collects and processes data from the experiment’s optical sensors buried in the ice.
The darkness of night tells us that we’re in the Earth’s shadow. But who thinks about the Earth’s shadow during the day? Actually, it’s often visible but we fail to recognize it.
Through a partnership with PolarTREC, Armando Caussade, a STEM educator from Puerto Rico, will travel to the South Pole during the 2014–2015 polar season to support maintenance work on the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
So many images from last week … where to begin? The IceCube winterovers captured quite a few shots of the sun as it continues to set. Looks like they also built an igloo.
Surprise, surprise—a little creature snuck in to the South Pole station, presumably in the last fresh food shipment. “Dustin” the moth was found fluttering around the lab.
It’s a small community wintering over at the South Pole—they help each other out. When not immediately involved in their detector duties, IceCube’s winterovers might be found volunteering their assistance with other scientific projects.
Former IceCube PhD student Anne Schukraft is being honored today by the German Physical Society, or Deutsche Physikalische Gesellschaft (DPG), for her contribution to the measurement of the neutrino energy spectrum.
What is this? And where would you find it at the South Pole station? It might remind UW–Madison folks of the “What are you looking at?” feature in Inside UW–Madison, a weekly newsletter that periodically spotlights a cropped photo for which readers can guess the campus location.
At the South Pole, apparently there’s “cold” and then there’s “really cold.” IceCube winterover Dag’s frosted visage tells you he’s in cold country, but his open coat perhaps gives away that it’s not yet “really cold.”
Expectations were high for this past season. The largest upgrade to IceCube’s hardware and software was completed on schedule. The new servers and readout computer upgrades brought new equipment to the Pole but also new opportunities for the scientists of the IceCube Collaboration, spread in a dozen of countries around the world.
The IceCube Collaboration spring 2014 meeting begins today in Banff, Canada. The meeting is hosted by IceCube collaborator and University of Alberta Physics Professor Darren Grant.
In a paper recently published in Science Express, cosmic ray data from IceCube was used alongside observations from NASA’s Interstellar Boundary Explorer, or IBEX, in a study of the magnetic fields that surround our solar system.
It’s not dark yet, but the temperatures have been dropping. They’re back to being lower than they are in the Midwest, as it should be, unlike last month where some record low temperatures created days where the South Pole was a relatively warm place.
Nathan Whitehorn, a postdoctoral researcher on the IceCube project at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has been named a “Young Star” by the Division of Astrophysics of the American Physical Society (APS).
The South Pole station is gearing up for its seasonal closing. There are still flights coming and going—the plane above is shown offloading fuel supplies—but they will eventually end as the season closes and weather becomes inhospitable to aircraft.
In a new paper submitted to The European Physical Journal C, the IceCube Collaboration presents a search for non-relativistic (slow) magnetic monopoles that, despite being fruitless, has set the best experimental limits for a wide range of assumed speeds and catalysis cross sections.
IceCube winterover Ian Rees was invited to fly around in a Twin Otter and photograph South Pole buildings from above. Here’s a nice aerial shot that he took of the ICL (IceCube Lab). You can clearly see the shadow of the aircraft as they passed by.
Signs are everywhere. When you’re lost or unsure about which way to go, a sign with an arrow can be very helpful.
A weird-looking contraption hanging from a frame, three kneeling people huddled on the ground, a tank-treaded vehicle in the distance, and snow as far as the eye can see. What’s going on here?
2013 was, no doubt, a great year for IceCube. Scientific results reached a crescendo with a beautiful IceCube neutrino event gracing the cover of Science magazine on November 21. It was also the year that Prof. Olga Botner, of Uppsala University, was elected IceCube spokesperson, following Prof. Greg Sullivan from the University of Maryland. Also, four new institutions joined the IceCube Collaboration. And, last but not least, the NSF review committee resoundingly approved the collaboration´s efforts.
What’s new at the Pole? Well, some new people are there—it’s still summer, so groups of people are still coming and going.
Out with the old, in with the new. This might pertain to many things as one year changes to the next, but at the South Pole it also applies to the South Pole marker, which indicates the spot of the geographic South Pole.
The Race Around the World, an approximately two-mile course at the South Pole, is one that some folks take seriously, with planning and preparations aimed at bringing them across the finish line first. After all, the prize, an extralong shower, is something anyone living at the South Pole station would covet, as shower time is rationed there.
PINGU, the Precision IceCube Next Generation Upgrade, proposes a extension inside the current IceCube array designed to measure the mass of the three known neutrino types.
The summer season isn’t long at the South Pole, from about late October through early February. Folks typically arrive in shifts, spending a few weeks, give or take, working at the Pole. But delays are common, whether coming or going—and when they happen around the holidays it can be all the more frustrating.
It was a week filled with movement outdoors. First up, snow needed to be moved. A survey was done of snow depths over the IceTop stations, and excess snow was removed. You can see the IceCube crew in the snowcat, or “pisten bully,” (above) while out on their rounds.
It looks like IceCube winterover Ian Rees is practicing a good luge position, but he’s just taking advantage of his perch to capture photos. He’s lying atop some boxes bearing new equipment as part of an extensive server upgrade. This photo gives the sense of peace and quiet, but they’re moving and the flags are up, so with a little effort you might imagine there to be some wind noise.
The IceCube project has been awarded the 2013 Breakthrough of the Year by the British magazine Physics World. The Antarctic observatory has been selected for making the first observation of cosmic neutrinos, but also for overcoming the many challenges of creating and operating a colossal detector deep under the ice at the South Pole.
In a paper recently published in the Journal of Glaciology, the IceCube Collaboration presents a study of South Pole climate over the past 100,000 years, using high-resolution 3D laser images of the ice sheet.
That’s IceCube winterover Ian Rees (facing) near the drill while it’s being prepared to access a rod well, which is a deep cavity used to melt ice for drinking water. Rod wells are named after Paul Rodriguez, an Army engineer who developed them while at Camp Century in Greenland in the early 1960s.
This austral summer, on November 4, Ian Rees was the first IceCuber to reach the Amundsen-Scott station, after a long trip from Boulder, Colorado. From now until the end of the IceCube polar season, 20 people will fly to the Pole from Madison, Maryland and Delaware in the US, but also from Canada, Germany, Sweden, and Belgium.
In a new study, the IceCube Collaboration searches for neutrino-induced particle showers in one year of data taken during the construction phase of IceCube, when about half the detector was operational. Above 100 TeV, a 2.7σ excess of events was found, which is consistent with results published by the IceCube Collaboration in Science. The current paper has been submitted to the journal Physical Review D.
Open coat? No hat? It must be summer at the South Pole. Well, although it’s sunny outside it would probably be a stretch to call it warm, for those of us not used to it anyway. Dag Larsen, one of IceCube’s two winterovers for this season, has finally arrived (above), and he may or may not be used to the cold, but one thing is sure—he has plenty of time to get used to it.
In an analysis published today, the IceCube Collaboration reports on a search for a diffuse astrophysical neutrino signal, looking at high-energy upward-going muon tracks, with data taken between May 2009 and May 2010, when the detector was running in its 59-string configuration. The search found a high-energy neutrino excess of 1.8σ compared to the background scenario of a pure conventional atmospheric model, a measurement consistent with the astrophysical neutrino flux described in Science. The results of this research have been submitted to Physical Review D.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is a demonstration of the power of the human passion for discovery, where scientific ingenuity meets technological innovation. Today, nearly 25 years after the pioneering idea of detecting neutrinos in ice, the IceCube Collaboration announces the observation of 28 very high-energy particle events that constitute the first solid evidence for astrophysical neutrinos from cosmic accelerators. Details of the research appear in an article published tomorrow, November 22, in Science.
Outgoing winterovers Felipe Pedreros (left) and Blaise Kuo Tiong (right) greet newcomer Ian Rees (center) on his arrival. Thanks to Felipe and Blaise for a great year of photos and reports, and welcome to Ian and Dag (Larsen, still to come), fresh and ready to capture the year’s adventure ahead.
It always seems as if they have just about everything at the South Pole, but apparently they didn’t have a unicycle. Until recently. Winter is officially over, and new arrivals to the station have come bearing goodies of all sorts, from “freshies” to toys—like this unicycle, which IceCube winterover Blaise is testing out in good form.
Life’s a tradeoff. At the South Pole, when winter comes to a close, you trade cold, dark, isolated for (still) cold, but bright, and less isolated. With the sun out, you also get sundogs—scientific name, parhelion. The tradeoff there? No more auroras for a while.
A few short weeks ago this scene would have looked quite different. But now the sun is out, full force, and the snow is bright white. The camera was apparently caught in a stare down with a Basler ski-plane that was stranded for a few days at the Pole due to bad weather.
The IceCube collaboration presents new results that rule out the possibility—at a confidence level greater than 90%—that the two PeV events detected in IceCube are cosmogenic neutrinos. However, the long exposure of the analyzed data, from May 2010 to May 2012, and the lack of detected events with higher energies, have allowed a new probe into the cosmogenic neutrino flux, which has been used to set the most stringent limit for the energy range from 1 PeV to 10 EeV. This analysis has just been submitted to the journal Physical Review D.
Greenery, and flowers, … this doesn’t look like much like the South Pole. But this photo was taken at an important place in the South Pole station—the greenhouse. If it weren’t for the greenhouse, they wouldn’t have any fresh vegetables during the long winter.
What do a rock, an egg, and a kiwi all have in common? They can all be found at the South Pole. Maybe not readily or easily, but they were all found at the South Pole recently. This rock was discovered outside on a snowdrift, a finding that spurred some scientific tests to examine the nature of the rock.
Now that looks like the sun—finally! It’s rising up over the flags at the ceremonial South Pole.
The sun is rising at the Pole, but this once-a-year occurrence is a much more gradual happening than the once-a-day occurrence most of us experience (or don’t, if we sleep through it, as the case may be). Here, increasing sunlight lets you clearly see the flag path leading to the Dark Sector.
There is little to no snowfall at the South Pole—it’s basically a desert. But there is a lot of snow on the ground. High winds carry the snow that does come down all over the place, leaving drifts that can bury equipment or even buildings.
Sky-watchers around the world were anticipating this close encounter of celestial objects last week. It was the conjunction of the moon and Venus, and the South Pole was a great place to capture a shot. Check out some other photos from the week—the conjunction, snow drifts, and glowing horizon. Nice scenery, whether you’re just watching the sky or launching balloons.
All appears to be tranquil, but there was more commotion than usual last week. A power outage occurred at the Pole that affected all the facilities at the station, including the IceCube Lab, or ICL (shown above).
In May 2013, the IceCube Collaboration elected Professor Olga Botner of Uppsala University, Sweden, as its new spokesperson, following a two-year service by Professor Greg Sullivan from the University of Maryland.
The sun has not officially risen at the Pole yet, but things do keep getting brighter. Outside that is. Inside? Well, maybe thoughts of the sun’s arrival led to thoughts of summer foods.
A new study by the IceCube Collaboration shows that the muon track reconstruction performed in the early stages of the analysis can be significantly improved by using robust statistical methods to estimate particle trajectories through the detector. The new algorithm results in a 13% gain in the angular resolution of the muon track and a 98% accuracy rate in determining the number of muons in coincident events. The paper has just been submitted to Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section A.
The yellow light cast on the ground makes the scene look almost like a sandy beach, with a shorefront edging into dark waters. But it’s just an illusion, we’re still at the Pole. That’s SPTR-2, one of the South Pole satellite domes.
Before there was IceCube, there was AMANDA, and before there was AMANDA, there were a couple people testing the idea for an in-ice neutrino detector in Greenland.
It’s still dark at the Pole these days, but knowing that the sunrise is not that far off, station staff are taking every opportunity to capture some great night photos.
A failed Acopian power supply is on the table for investigation. The IceCube winterovers have a broad range of job duties, but of course maintaining (and fixing if necessary) all of the computer hardware involved in collecting data from the detector is a high priority task.
Since December is a summer month in the Southern Hemisphere, many countries like Australia and New Zealand hold Christmas in July events in order to have a Christmas with a wintry feel. They were celebrating Christmas in July at the Pole last week, but of course their climate is always wintry so maybe it was just an excuse to bake some sweet treats.
The South Pole has been described as an otherworldly place. So it’s befitting for those working there to take a moment once in a while to just sit and contemplate their surroundings. Especially when there’s some natural light to see by—the moon can really light the place up.
A search for neutrino point sources using throughgoing muons in IceCube has not found any excess of neutrinos above the atmospheric background in any given direction in the sky. Neither did dedicated searches of a priori selected objects. However, IceCube data provide insights into the nature of cosmic ray sources even from non-discovery results. These results have been submitted today to The Astrophysical Journal.
Don’t let these bright lights in the South Pole station gym (nice facilities, huh?) confuse you—it’s dark down there. Winter at the Pole means six months with no sunlight at all.
Which to marvel at more—the dark, star-studded sky or the fantastic aurora shimmering up from all along the horizon? Being able to step outside and regularly witness these amazing light shows is definitely one of the perks of winterovering at the South Pole station.
The IceCube Collaboration publishes today a new measurement of the all-particle cosmic ray energy spectrum in the energy range from 1.6 PeV to 1.3 EeV using data from IceTop, the surface component of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. The measured spectrum exhibits clear deviations from power law behavior. These resultshave just been submitted to Physical Review D.
They work hard, and they play hard. This week, play involved some billiards—the annual tournament is on. IceCube winterover Felipe is concentrating on his next move.
The IceCube Collaboration presents the results of a first search for self-annihilating dark matter in nearby galaxies and galaxy clusters. This analysis has been submitted today to Physical Review D.
Aya Ishihara recognized at ICRC 2013 by the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics for her discovery of two extremely high-energy neutrinos.
They’re halfway there! It’s midwinter at the South Pole, and they’re celebrating.
With nearly fifty presentations and posters, the IceCube Collaboration will contribute heavily to the International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC), which begins today in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.
It was the first winter open mic session and IceCube winterover Felipe was behind his drums and cymbals. They really do have everything down there, don't they?
Could they ever tire of viewing auroras at the Pole? Hmm, not sure. But regardless, they do have other things to do besides stare up at the sky. First, there’s work. Then, there are extracurricular activities. ...
A green sky flecked with swirling patterns of white lines. That’s what you get from sixty 30-second exposures taken through a ceiling dome at the South Pole station and made into a composite image. The IceCube winterovers have been capturing some amazing photos at the South Pole.
Antarctica is often described as the coldest, driest, and windiest place on earth. Cold and dry might be hard to discern from photos, but windy? These flags give it away—here, they’re taking a real beating. The group photo below (also with flags flapping away) was orchestrated to commemorate the invention of the Ethernet 40 years ago (they’re posing with a long Ethernet cable held between themselves). The photo garnered a response from the inventor himself, Bob Metcalfe, then at Xerox PARC.
A recent measurement of the Moon shadow in TeV cosmic rays with the IceCube telescope sets an upper limit on the detector’s absolute pointing accuracy to 0.2 degrees. The IceCube Collaboration presents these results in a paper submitted today to Physical Review D.
There was plenty of action this week at the Pole, indoors and out. Inside there was crocheting and a 5K race. Outside the auroras continued, bigger and brighter than ever.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, which comprises the IceCube and DeepCore detectors, has been designed to contribute heavily to our understanding of neutrino physics. In a paper submitted today to Physical Review Letters, the IceCube Collaboration has announced the first statistically significant detection of neutrino oscillations in the high-energy region (20–100 GeV).
The aurora season is in full swing at the South Pole, as exemplified by this photo taken of the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) building, bathed in a green glow. ARO is an NSF facility that supports long-term climate research programs. The building is located about 500 m from the main station and, like other outlying buildings, has no running water or sewage system. Hmm, guess you’re not making ice cream out there. But, back at the station, it looks like the IceCube winterovers’ foray into ice cream making continues—flavor of the week: Aurora Green Tea with Fresh Lavender.
The Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) is pleased to host the international IceCube Collaboration for the annual spring meeting May 07-11, 2013.
What’s this? Almost looks like a sample from the sushi plate (yep, we’ve already confirmed they eat well at the Pole) fell off outside and rolled around in the snow. But no, it’s yukimarimo. You heard right—a real word for a real thing—tiny, lightweight tumbleweeds of the Antarctic.
The auroras were busy this week, curling themselves up to look like cinnamon rolls. The IceCube winterovers were busy as well with several videoconferences, some with schools in the US and one with The Mind Museum in Manila. The photo below shows Blaise and Felipe (left to right) posing recently at the geographic South Pole (no, the pole marker is not bent, it’s just a wide-angle shot). There’s also a great shot of some sastrugi (we’ve learned about them before) pointing their way to the moon. Finally, check out this short time lapse video of an aurora unfolding above the moon—next best thing to being there.
Here they come. The auroras, that is. Although the sky is still allowing the sun’s presence to be somewhat felt from just below the horizon, it is also giving the winterovers their first glimpses of these special treats—from faint, wisping hints to full-on sprays of color.
This week had all the usual stuff—you know, calibrations, detector statistics, data handling, that kind of stuff. But it also had … Yuri’s Night. This is a global celebration held each April 12th to commemorate Yuri Gagarin, first man in space and an inspiration to many of the adventurous sort. The whole station observed the occasion with music and costumes.
In a paper submitted to Physical Review Letters, the IceCube Collaboration confirms highest energy neutrinos ever observed.
It’s cold and icy outside at the Pole, but not inside—although the blue tint of this image peeking in through an outside window of the ICL (IceCube Lab) might give the impression otherwise. The ICL is home to a serious cluster of computers, for the South Pole or anywhere. Below is a less formidable sort of computer also at the Pole, but just decorating someone’s desk. It’s a cardboard replica of the 1960s educational toy Digi-Comp I, a fully functional mechanical computer. Nice, just not up to snuff for IceCube’s needs. The kitchen seems to be a happening place lately. This week yielded authentic Chilean empanadas.
With the sun just below the horizon and a full moon in the sky, this landscape could be confused for a daytime shot. It was a quiet week for the detector but there was plenty going on to keep folks busy at the station:
-- a night off for galley staff brought other “chefs” to the kitchen for pizza making,
-- Easter egg decorating meant a hunt for “neutrinos,” and
-- World Table Top Game Day spawned a round of Carcassonne, a medieval-themed board game.
You may know that the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater is home to an observatory, giving people a look at the visual Universe. Many people don’t know, though, that Wisconsin played a major role in the construction and management of one of the world’s largest and most interesting telescopes, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located at the South Pole in Antarctica.
You’d think it was science and adventure that lured these winterovers to the Pole, but it looks like it might be the food. Those are some nice looking plates. Each year the station holds a special celebratory dinner—the sunset dinner—the last one before the sun leaves them for a good long while. That’s something worth celebrating.
Someone is up high, quite high in fact. That’s the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) tower, a good spot for surveying the landscape. ARO is a National Science Foundation facility used in support of scientific research related to atmospheric phenomena. Its long-term research program measures trends of important trace gases and aerosols and investigates the influence of these gases and aerosols on the Earth's climate. They aren’t measuring gases inside the South Pole station’s greenhouse, but look what’s going on in there—lots of growth. What a difference two weeks make.
The lowering sun is providing for some great photos, like these long shadows in front of and behind the IceCube Lab (ICL). The winterovers spent some time doing various things out in the cold this week. They raised their country flags—Chile, the US, and the Philippines—on the roof of the ICL. They also helped out their neighbors in the SPUD experiment, moving a 300-lb mirror off the detector array.
What’s green and frilly and grows at the South Pole? Outside, nothing, but inside, we’re talking lettuce. Leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes…even cantaloupe—a variety of produce is grown in the South Pole greenhouse. These are the only fresh vegetables available from about mid-February to mid-October for the teams wintering over at the station. The sun has been getting lower, and they will soon be entrenched in their six months of darkness. Some fresh vegetables will at least brighten up their plates.
There’s work and then there’s play. And sometimes play can take a lot of work. Like building an igloo at the South Pole, for example—check it out. You can see it in progress during construction, above, and the view from inside, looking through the “sun roof,” after completion, below. The IceCube winterovers had cold temperatures and wind chills (below -60 °C) for their work, too, which was also outdoors this week. They performed a snow survey, in which they had to measure the height of all the posts located over the IceTop tanks (IceTop is the surface component of the IceCube detector).
A great shot of the last LC-130 leaving the station. It marks the beginning of the winter season, in which the Pole’s population remains steady, this year at 44 people. No one will be coming or going for a while, not until flights begin to arrive again October. About half of the winterovers are shown outside on the ice, below. And as tradition dictates, they ring in the beginning of winter with a showing of all three versions of the classic Antarctic horror film “The Thing.”
Everything coming to or leaving the Pole goes through McMurdo Station on the coast. And it’s a busy place—a complex logistics facility that includes a harbor, three airfields, and a heliport. Winterover Felipe Pedreros recently traveled through McMurdo and captured this shot of the Nathaniel B. Palmer, an icebreaker designed and built specifically for use by the U.S. Antarctic Program. Below is an aerial view captured on the flight to McMurdo.
For some, ice cream is a summertime treat. For others, it’s good just about anytime. Looks like the folks at the Pole fall into the “others” camp. They have ice cream on their menu daily, and this batch, made with liquid nitrogen, appears to be particularly rich and creamy. But there are healthier foods to be had as well. With a little help from the greenhouse, which is just getting started with some of their seedlings, they might be eating kale chips (or debuting some kale ice cream?) before too long.
It takes a lot people power to run the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. An international collaboration that includes hundreds of physicists, engineers, computer scientists, and administrators works year-round to run the detector, analyze data, and develop new projects.
A solemn ceremony was held at the South Pole to commemorate the crew of the Twin Otter, a plane that went down on its way from the Pole to Terra Nova Bay. Members of the ARFF (Aircraft Rescue Fire Fighting) team stood at attention for the changing of the flags. Below is a photo of the remaining summer crew at the South Pole station, a healthy number that will shortly dwindle down to about 50 or so for the long, isolating winter season.
From its vantage point at the geographic South Pole in Antarctica, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory is uniquely positioned to see neutrinos—mysterious, nearly massless, difficult-to-detect particles that are plentiful but little understood.
They are set up well at the South Pole station, with comfortable (enough) living quarters, tasty meals, and engaging activities. Included in the many happenings are interesting science talks and lectures. This week they had a few—two talks from a former astronaut/current medical director and a talk on cosmology from a collaborator of the SPUD telescope.
The Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) is announcing a high school internship program for students in the Madison, Wisconsin area.
The IceCube winterovers have plenty of darkness to look forward to in the coming months, but in the meantime they’ve been outside in the sunlight doing all sorts of things. Filming a plane taking off, shoveling snow, and taking IceTop measurements. And with the sun out, they sometimes capture a photo of a sun halo, in this case (below) a double halo.
A flurry of activities marked the end of 2012 and the beginning of 2013, a marathon and a golf tournament among them. There was also the traditional ceremony to remark the geographical South Pole. On the first day of each year, a new physical pole marker, which is designed and built by the previous season’s winterovers, is put into place during this annual event. The top view of the 2013 marker is shown above, while below you can see part of the marker’s underside, engraved with signatures.
Remember, at this time of year the sun doesn’t set. If you can imagine lying on top of the South Pole station and staring upward, then click here for a great time-lapse view of what you’d see over the course of 24 hours.
Not sure what the costume is all about, but these people are clearly running a race. Around the world that is. Well, through all the world’s time zones to be more precise. It’s an annual holiday event at the Pole. Although you could technically get through all the time zones in a small circle right around the Pole marker, the official race course is about 2 miles long and covers many of the major “sights” at the Pole.
Antarctica’s a cold continent, and all of the activities at the South Pole would not be possible without abundant sources of energy, which must be transported in. Since all supplies to the Pole come from McMurdo Station on the coast, the “South Pole Traverse” was developed as a viable option to reduce dependence on airlifts, which are routinely delayed due to inclement weather. The traverse is a compacted snow road extending almost 1000 miles from McMurdo to the South Pole. Here you can see the convoy (also referred to as the traverse) arriving with its wide loads. You might imagine its slow pace—it takes about 40 days to reach the Pole. The bottom photo clues you into the first image, the continent-shaped topper on a flagpole, not necessarily apparent from its close-up view.
There won’t be too many more shots of this South Pole marker. Each year, on the first of January, a ceremony is held in which a special new marker is placed at the spot of the current geographic South Pole. Since the polar ice sheet is continuously moving, at an approximate rate of 10 meters per year, there is no fixed spot on the icy plateau that corresponds to the actual, or geographic, South Pole. (However, there is a ceremonial South Pole location that is stable, marked by a different fixture and surrounded by the flags of the Antarctic Treaty nations.) Both spots are great for taking photos, and with the sun out 24 hours a day you can even take photos at midnight, as evidenced below.
It’s official—Sven and Carlos, IceCube’s winterovers for the past year, have left the Pole. Here they are smiling for the camera before leaving, while below you can see from Carlos’s body language as he walks toward the plane that leaving is not a happy event. Nevertheless, they’ll have countless memories from their time as winterovers, guaranteed from the many photos they took to document their experiences. Felipe, just starting his winterover duty, can add playing the drums at the Pole to his list of memories-in-progress.
A nice halo sets a peaceful scene from the Pole, but it has been anything but quiet around there these days. Planes landing and taking off. Summer people arriving, winter people leaving. Hugs and photos.
The time has come for the changing of the guard. IceCube’s next two winterovers, Felipe Pedreros Bustos and Blaise Kuo Tiong, have landed at the Pole.
With the first planes of the summer season come an influx of new faces and fresh products for the South Pole station. Remember, this is the first time in over 8 months that anyone new has been able to arrive at the Pole. That changes the atmosphere. Twenty-nine people got there just in time for a Halloween party. The more the merrier.
This week saw the first planes arriving for the summer season at the Pole—that’s pretty thrilling when you’ve been basically isolated for eight months. Along with that excitement was some less captivating indoor and outdoor measurement-taking. But then there was cake, too, and if cake isn’t exciting enough in and of itself, it looks like the lingering smoke from the candles might have been.
The winterovers report a rather uneventful week at the Pole. Nonetheless, beautiful pictures abound. The skiway is prepared with flags for the upcoming arrival of the first planes of the season. The newly risen sun is not only creating vertical beams, halos, and long shadows, but it is finally high enough to infiltrate the game room.
The IceCube winterovers share space with other folks stationed at the South Pole during the winter months. Here’s the station meteorologist getting a reading from the Campbell-Stokes recorder—a rather low tech contraption designed for recording hours of bright sunshine. With the recent sunrise it’s been getting warmer at the Pole, making a number of outdoor activities more pleasant, or even possible, like traveling by snowmobile.
The sun has risen at the Pole. The ICL (IceCube Lab) is shown basking in the sun while the following image displays the long shadow cast on the ground behind it. Although the sun is now out, that doesn’t mean it’s always showing—clouds and blowing snow can do a fine job obscuring it. Here below, though, it is being blocked by the stairs of the ICL. You might be hard-pressed to identify these as stairs. Completely covered in accumulated snow, there is barely a slit for the sun to peek through. The smoke from the power plant, bottom, offers a better glimpse.
It was a windy one at the Pole—tattering flags and threatening to ruin the one and only sunrise. With just one sunrise to look forward to, it is probably the most highly anticipated event of the year for the winterovers. Fortunately the weather behaved in the end, just in time to capture a nice shot of the sun making its appearance.
The sun is getting ready to show up. With only one sunrise each year, it’s naturally cause for some celebration. At the Pole, they have a sunrise dinner as part of the festivities. Of course, the sun doesn’t just pop up suddenly, it slowly manifests itself with colored bands along the horizon. It’s appearance, however, can be obscured by heavy cloud cover or strong wind gusts.
This photo of the station manager placing a flag at the ceremonial South Pole exemplifies the cold, windy week they just had there. Cold…wind…so what’s new? Actually, one piece of news is that their freezer broke down, requiring them to remove all the food and take it outside for safekeeping. A fine solution given the location, but solving one problem did create another—ice cream that couldn’t be served without an extended warm-up.
If you’ve been watching our website, you might see weekly reports showing up regularly. Photos of dazzling auroras, indoor station photos, mid-winter party images…where do these all come from?
These are sastrugi. Who doesn’t love to learn a new word? Sastrugi are wavelike ridges of hard snow formed by the wind. Visually they are reminiscent of sand dunes but they are not as easily shaped by the wind as sand is. It’s pretty light in this photo, with the sun beginning to rise at the pole, yet the moon is still hanging in there at the moment—enjoy some more of the views.
One of the IceCube winterovers stands in front of the IceCube Lab with outstretched arms to …
a) sing the aurora’s praises,
b) perform daily calisthenics, or
c) scare off potential migrating birds.
Well, whatever they’re doing, they have quite the backdrop for doing it—frost-covered research lab, long-stretching aurora, and star-studded sky. Here are some more photos from the week, showing the moon, stars, and auroras, as well as the beginning signs of the sun’s appearance.
It’s not just ice and starry skies. There are people down there, and look what they’re up to—a regular old county fair, pie eating contest and all. They also share power plant watch duties—the photos below show the way there and the generators found inside. It all seems relatively ordinary, until you go back outside and take in glorious scenes like these.
IceCube winterovers were busy this week with various sessions for emergency response team training—fire, trauma, and technical rescue. The night sky was busy, too, filling itself up with stars. Here they are over several views of the South Pole station. The bottom photo shows the starry sky above the turn off point to the IceCube Lab on the Dark Sector road.
It was an uneventful week for the winterovers, but not for the moon. Here’s a bright moon if you’ve ever seen one. And out in the open, as opposed to the images below. First up is a peekaboo moon behind the South Pole Telescope. You can even see a smattering of stars. Then there is a mostly hidden moon, backlighting the TDRS (Tracking and Data Relay Satellite) antenna, first with the beacon on and then with the beacon off.
Cold, windy, with the moon back up. We have two photos of balloon launches this week. Above we see a NOAA ozone balloon about to go up. Below is the daily weather balloon before its launch. Missing are images of “Super hero bingo night.” The fun never stops down there.
What is it? It looks cozy, like when kids throw a sheet over some chairs for a make-believe fort. But this one is definitely not for make-believe. It’s an inside view of a Scott tent set up at the South Pole – actually used (as in slept in overnight) by winterovers as part of their survival skills practice. And here’s the view from outside the tent.
Cold goes to colder, as they reached their lowest temperature yet at the South Pole this winter, going down to -76 °C, or -104.8 °F. Uneventful in terms of extracurricular activities, but captivating as far as auroras go. Lots of them to admire and to muse upon, like the question mark looming large over the IceCube Lab.
The US flag flaps in the wind, as it undoubtedly did in many places across the US on July 4th, only at the South Pole it was lit by a bright moon with a lunar halo. Although there, too, they had a BBQ to celebrate festivities on the 4th, it wasn’t on an outdoor grill. Why not? (whisper…It’s cold down there!) However, the cold temperatures—well, at -42 °C, warm by their standards—didn’t stop IceCube winterover Carlos Pobes from completing a half marathon outside.
A quiet week at the Pole. Still, there’s always maintenance to be done, like status checks of the emergency fuel tanks (below, top) and a monthly fire alarm test at the IceCube Lab (below, bottom). Quiet, yes, but bright—perfect conditions for a walk.
At this year’s 18th International School of Cosmic Ray Astrophysics in Erice, Italy, IceCube graduate students Anne Schukraft, RWTH Aachen University, and Marcos Santander, University of Wisconsin-Madison, were recognized for their analysis and presentations.
The official midwinter date is a big event in Antarctica. The various stations throughout the continent celebrate and exchange special greeting cards, as shown posted on a wall at the Amundsen-Scott station where the IceCube winterovers are located. There they had dining, dancing and a movie (the traditional viewing of “The Shining”) to cap off their weekend celebration. And auroras, of course.
That’s the setting moon in the background and a snow-covered Scott tent in the foreground—the tent so named for the design used over 100 years ago by Robert Scott in his attempt to be the first person to reach the South Pole. They had a cold week at the Pole where they broke a record low from 1966 with a temperature of -100.8 °F, allowing the notorious 300 club to reconvene. A spectacular aurora display shines over the South Pole Telescope below.
The moon shines over the power plant just outside the South Pole station, illuminating the plume from one of the stacks. Power generation is a necessity at the South Pole just as it is elsewhere. How else would the winterovers be able to participate in videoconferencing events (several of which were held this week with some schools in Spain)? Outside the station, a large group of station winterovers congregated for a picture at the Pole marker, with the moon doing its best to help out.
The moon is back up at the South Pole and casting its bright glow on the structures below, here on a pair of satellite domes. Indoor activities for the winterovers included emergency response team drills, a South Pole marker design competition, and a Eurovision party. Below are two more images in the same color scheme—a moonlight halo and the South Pole station basking in moonlight.
IceCube DeepCore "sub-detector" sees high-energy neutrino oscillations.
The IceCube Collaboration is pleased to announce participation in the upcoming 25th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics June 3-9, 2012 in Kyoto, Japan. The conference, known as "Neutrino 2012," is a premiere international meeting covering neutrino physics, current and future detection technology, and neutrino beams.
"Good auroras this week." I’d say. Here you can see them over the South Pole Telescope, and in the image below over the IceCube Lab. Besides aurora gazing, the winterovers were busy with several outreach events and training sessions for trauma and rescue. Oh, and cartoon character bingo.
Not only is it cold, but it even looks cold—notice the flag flapping wildly in the wind. But a starry, aurora-filled sky like this could maybe let you forget the cold for a while. Maybe. Anyway, there’s warmth indoors, where the winterovers can be found doing the non-winterovery things they do, like washing dishes and celebrating birthdays. Nice cake.
There may be no sun but that’s a pretty bright moon. The Super Moon, or “perigee moon” as it’s more technically referred to, shows itself over the IceCube Lab. The light that it cast allowed for skiing without headlamps. An afternoon ski is a traditional Sunday pastime at the Pole.
A relatively quiet week at the Pole. Cold, too, although no record breakers. That happened a few weeks ago when there was an early record of –100 °F, which warranted a celebration of the 300 Club (those crazy brave enough to subject their bodies to a 200 °F sauna followed by a trip outside to the –100 °F temperature).
The South Pole is home to ice, wind, and science. The extreme conditions that make it a difficult place to live and travel also make it an excellent location for astrophysics and astronomy.
One South Pole physics project, the Askaryan Radio Array (ARA), is making the most of the conditions by outfitting their detector with wind turbines and solar panels to help power their stations.
Seems like it was a busy week at the Pole for IceCube’s winterovers. They participated in the UWRightNow project, held a trauma team training session (any connection?), and capped it off with some special social events, including Saturday Pub Trivia. Meanwhile, on the outside, the auroras kept on coming.
Using data from the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, astrophysicists Nathan Whitehorn and Pete Redl searched for neutrinos coming from the direction of known GRBs. And they found nothing.
Their result, appearing today in the journal Nature, challenges one of the two leading theories for the origin of the highest energy cosmic rays.
Although cosmic rays were discovered 100 years ago, their origin remains one of the most enduring mysteries in physics. Now, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a massive detector in Antarctica, is honing in on how the highest energy cosmic rays are produced.
Public interest in penguins recently provided IceCube researcher Mark Krasberg of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with an edge in the UW-Madison Cool Science Contest where he won an award for his photo of an emperor penguin leaping out of the water.
We sat down with Mark to ask him where he got the image and to find out what he does.
IceCube is pleased to announce that high school math teacher Liz Ratliff will be joining our team at the South Pole during the 2012-2013 season. Ratliff, from Camden High School in South Carolina, was selected by the PolarTREC program to participate in a hands-on polar research experience.
Click the link above to read more.
Celebrate 100 Years of Discovery From the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery on December 13th.
The Antarctic Sun, a publication of the United States Antarctic Program, covers the first plane to land at the South Pole for the 2011-2012 austral summer.
IceCube faculty member James Madsen, UW-River Falls, provides an overview of education and outreach efforts by the project
The IceCube Research Center (IRC) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is thrilled to award the first-ever Bahcall Fellowship for neutrino astronomy to Claudio Kopper and Markus Ahlers.
IceCube Collaborator Dawn Williams, from the University of Alabama, talks about neutrinos, how IceCube works, and what got her interested in particle physics
The IceCube collaboration published a paper entitled "Search for dark matter from the Galactic halo with the IceCube Neutrino Telescope," detailing the collaboration's search for Dark Matter with IceCube.
Nature writer Dieter H. Hartmann sums up the absence of evidence of neutrinos from Gamma Ray Bursts as detailed in an IceCube publication in Physical Review of Letters.
Researcher William C. Lewis discusses observed differences between neutrino and antineutrino disappearance, what that might mean for our understanding of th Universe, and the role IceCube can play in discovering an answer
IceCube collaborator and Japanese resident Shigeru Yoshida took advantage of an opportunity to help out his country by volunteering to scan residents after they spent time inside the Fukushima hot zone gathering belongings from their hastily evacuated homes. His first hand account of the area after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake compromised the nuclear power plant on March 11 is below.
At the South Pole, the June solstice marks a very important shift in the season; it heralds the return of the sun. Needless to say, it warrants special celebration. This article by the Christian Science Monitor explains the festivities and the reason behind them.
Franke, from the from the DESY Institute in Zeuthen, Germany talks about why we are using neutrinos to look at the Universe, and why the South Pole ice is ideal for detecting the tiny particles
A paper from the IceCube Collaboration in Physical Review Letters (PRL 106,141101 (2011)) was selected as a research highlight in the journal Nature Physics. The analysis presented in the paper tested a model of gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) with IceCube data from 2008-2009. The analysis showed that IceCube did not observe the high-energy neutrino flux predicted by the model. This is the first time IceCube data successfully constrained a model of cosmic ray acceleration in astrophysical sources. (arXiv: 1101.1448)
This final event, called IceCube After Dark, took place at The Majestic, a somewhat raucous theater that occasionally puts on performances of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Wired Science spoke with University of Wisconsin-Madison PhD candidate Nathan Whitehorn about what IceCube hasn't seen, and how that helps us set boundaries on what we know about the Universe.
IceCube collaborators in Japan, while not directly affected by the earthquake and tsunami, are nevertheless dealing with the aftermath along with their countrymen.
According to Professor Shigeru Yoshida, researchers at Chiba University have to deal with the shortage of electricity and the rolling blackout. The computer clusters are allowed to be operated in a very limited manner.
All students were encouraged to go back to their hometowns during spring break. The 2011 spring semester begins next week. Prof Yoshida hopes that a clearer picture of what the future holds will emerge then.
The planned EHE analysis workshop scheduled for March 28 at Chiba has been postponed. We send our best wishes to our colleagues and friends in Japan.
A Southern University physics team is helping to unlock the secrets of the universe as its research work comes to fruition at the South Pole.
This German-language publication covers the IceCube project and other neutrino detection experiments, with quotes from IceCube collaborator Christian Spiering (DESY) and advisory board member Uli Katz (U. of Erlangen).
The on-line version of Symmetry Magazine features the completion of the construction of the IceCube neutrino telescope.
On February 21st at 12:51 PM New Zealand time, a 6.3 magnitude earthquake (USGS Earthquake Report) ripped through Christchurch, New Zealand resulting in more than 60 deaths and around $6 billion dollars (USD) in damage.
The IceCube collaboration sends its best wishes to the residents of Christchurch and our collaborators at the University of Canterbury.
Nearly 90 percent of the U.S. Antarctic Program (USAP) personnel believed to be in transit from Antarctica or on vacation in New Zealand at the time of the earthquake have been accounted for.
For updates, visit the USAP website
IceCube Collaboration member Spencer Klein reflects on the final string of the South Pole detector.
The Guardian reports on neutrinos, cosmic rays, and how IceCube operates.
An article on the Quantum of Knowledge blog details IceCube"s scale and purpose and outlines the importance of the neutrino as an astronomical messenger.
An audio interview with IceCube Collaborator and University of Alberta faculty Darren Grant.
With all major IceCube construction completed, the on-ice population will see a sharp decrease, with 30 already scheduled to depart. Consequently, the IceTop headquarters, also known as the "Purple Palace," has been emptied and disassembled.
Antarctic Sun writer Peter Rejcek reports on detector completion from the South Pole.
EE Times rates IceCube as one of the most top electronics stories, along with quantum film, solar cells, and other exciting discoveries.
It was a beautiful Christmas Day, sunny and with no wind—perfect conditions for the Race Around the World.
A great take on traveling to the Pole and how IceCube is providing the infrastructure for a dark matter detector
NOTE: The above web pages are both in German.
German coverage of IceCube detector completion, including a radio interview with Professor Albrecht Karle.
IceCube: World's largest neutrino observatory completed at South Pole: PhysOrg.com reports on the completion of the IceCube Neutrino Detector
World"s Largest Neutrino Observatory Built at South Pole: LiveScience reports on the completion of the IceCube Neutrino Detector
Last week marked the successful completion of all major IceCube construction. The final hole of the IceCube array, was completed in the morning hours of December 18, and the final IceCube string was tied off on Saturday, December 18, around 1800h New Zealand time.
IceCube is featured in The Wisconsin State Journal.
World's largest neutrino observatory completed at South Pole: The University of Wisconsin--Madison issues a press release announcing the completion of the IceCube Neutrino Detector
NSF, University of Wisconsin-Madison Complete Construction of the World"s Largest Neutrino Observatory: The National Science Foundation (NSF) issues a press release announcing the completion of the IceCube Neutrino Detector
Into the Ice: Completing the IceCube Neutrino Observatory: An article from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory newsroom.
One of the World"s Biggest Telescopes Is Buried Beneath the South Pole: IceCube is mentioned in Fox News