Last week at the Pole, the first two planes of the season arrived (and then departed again—both had short stays). They were small planes, but still, any plane landing at the Pole these days is an exciting event after the long, dark, quiet winter.
IceCube Current News
Although the South Pole is essentially a desert, a hefty accumulation of snow occurs on and around the buildings there each winter. How is that? Well, it’s the wind. Antarctica is a windy place—even with so little precipitation, it features some extraordinary blizzards thanks to strong winds.
IceCube’s collaborative efforts with gamma-ray, X-ray, and optical telescopes started long ago. Now, the IceCube, MAGIC and VERITAS collaborations present updates to their follow-up programs that will allow the gamma-ray community to collect data from specific sources during periods when IceCube detects a higher number of neutrinos. Details of the very high energy gamma-ray follow-up program have been submitted to the Journal of Instrumentation.
With the sun out, you can see again—and here we see all the flags surrounding the marker at the ceremonial pole. They didn’t just appear out of the darkness, though. They were recently replaced for the summer season after being taken down for the winter.
Flags serve an important purpose at the Pole, marking out routes between places for when visibility is poor. Here you can see the IceCube Lab (ICL) in focus behind a flag line in the foreground.
The IceCube Collaboration fall 2016 meeting ends today at Johannes Gutenberg Universität Mainz in Germany. Professors Sebastian Böser and Lutz Köpke hosted the weeklong meeting.
"It’s been a total thrill to see how fast we as a collaboration are moving forward on so many fronts in parallel," says Sebastian Böser. "I hope everyone has enjoyed the meeting in Mainz as much as we've enjoyed hosting the collaboration."
Up, up, and away. That’s a NOAA balloon launch shown in a time-lapse photo—pretty nice! Last week at the Pole was all about the camera.
A new temperature record for 2016 was set at the Pole last week—a low of –107.9 °F. The extremely cold temperatures didn’t stop one station inhabitant from climbing the outdoor staircase is short sleeves.
The IceCube Collaboration has just announced the results of a search for point-like sources using track-like neutrino candidates detected by IceCube over seven years, from 2008 to 2015. No source has been identified, but the sensitivity keeps improving at a fast pace and will allow IceCube to test accurate models that suggest that sources could soon be observed. These results have just been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
One unique aspect of living at the Pole for a year is experiencing only one sunset, at the equinox in March, and only one sunrise, which occurs in September, while you’re there. Since the sun rises just once during the whole year, it’s kind of a big deal. It’s also a slow process, with daylight increasing little by little as the sun’s arrival nears.
Despite the encroaching twilight, this photo of a Scott tent near the South Pole marker also captured some faint auroras. Auroras have been caught in many shapes and forms, conjuring up cinnamon rolls and question marks, but in this case, it’s a grumpy face. At least, once it has been suggested, it’s difficult not to see it.
The IceCube Collaboration has expanded dark matter studies with a search for annihilations in the center of the Earth. Researchers have used one year of data—May 2011 to May 2012—and have not found an excess of neutrinos above the expected background. The results have set new limits on the annihilation rate of WIMPs in the Earth that are an order of magnitude stronger than previous results by AMANDA and that also improve the IceCube spin-independent cross section limits for a WIMP mass of 50 GeV. This study has just been submitted to The European Physical Journal C.
A full moon is doing just as good a job as the sun in lighting up the sky. Here the moon, surrounded by a clear halo, is shown hiding behind one of the frosty towers of the ICL. A large snow drift looms in the foreground.
Growing up on a small, secluded hobby farm in southwestern Wisconsin, the night sky played a major role in my upbringing. Since there is almost no light pollution, the night sky was always bright and clear. In the summer months, my bedtime was determined by the time a specific satellite went over the house. Every year, my family would gather up all the blankets in the house and lay outside to watch meteor showers for hours. From a young age, I loved the idea of learning more about the stars and planets, and as I got into high school, I fell in love with physics. My original plan was to become a high school physics teacher, and I found the University of Wisconsin–River Falls (UWRF) not only has a fantastic physics program but is also involved with IceCube. I had heard about IceCube in 2013, when it won Physics World’s Breakthrough of the Year, and working for IceCube became my new goal and dream.
The igloo—the prime attraction at the South Pole for the last few weeks—is no more. But before “disappearing,” its existence was memorialized in some final photos. Here you can see it with the names of its builders carved into the side, and it appears to almost glow from the soft white light from within.
During my summer abroad, I worked with Dr. Jon Dumm, who is searching for an excess of neutrino events originating in the plane of the Milky Way. Dr. Dumm’s analysis is designed to look for a diffuse neutrino flux from the galactic plane in agreement with a map of where pion decay is expected to occur. However, this analysis is sensitive to a neutrino flux from point sources that are not necessarily distributed as the pion decay map predicts. We simulated four possible models of cosmic-ray source density in the galaxy as proxies for possible distributions of unresolved neutrino point sources. In doing so, we established limits on the total flux from various numbers of sources to which the primary pion-decay-based analysis is sensitive.
At the start of the summer, UW-River Falls student Nick Jensen and I set out to create a 1:1000 scale model of the IceCube detector using LEDs to represent DOMs. To do this, we needed a wide assortment of parts to construct the model from the ground up. We spent the first half of the summer trying to gather all the parts needed for building.
The igloo from last week is finally finished. What began as an afternoon project ended up taking an entire week (well, high winds were partly to blame). In the image, you can see the igloo lit from within, and perhaps even discern that there are only few blocks missing to complete the ceiling.
That’s not the IceCube Lab all frosted up in this photo but the ARO (Atmospheric Research Observatory) building, with its LIDAR beams shown shooting straight up into the sky.
In an effort to fill in the blanks of the Standard Model of particle physics, science has been conducting a diligent search for a hypothesized particle known as the “sterile neutrino.” Now, with the latest results from an icy particle detector at the South Pole, scientists are almost certain that there is no such particle.
Station life was quiet at the South Pole last week, but not too quiet. They celebrated Christmas in July with a special dinner. Popular in many parts of the world, for various reasons, Christmas in July is only one of numerous celebrations held throughout the year at the Pole.
In summer at the South Pole, the traditional place for photo ops is the ceremonial Pole, where a mirrored sphere is mounted on a post and surrounded by a semicircular lineup of flags. But in the dark of winter, any place is as good as another as long as you have a nice aurora as backdrop
The IceCube Collaboration is now accumulating more statistics in the search for the sources of very high energy neutrinos, but also to learn more about their nature. In a new study, submitted this week to the Astrophysical Journal, the collaboration reports a substantially improved observation of the diffuse muon neutrino flux in the Northern Hemisphere using six years of IceCube data with about a tenfold increase in statistics. Once more, a clear astrophysical contribution has been found, which at the highest energies excludes a purely atmospheric origin at the 5.6 sigma level. Also, the accuracy of the measurement of the spectral properties has been improved.
The sky was not disappointing anyone last week at the Pole; it had it all—stars, Milky Way, and auroras. Work-wise it was rather quiet for IceCube’s winterovers. But they had other activities going on, including emergency response training and showcasing their LEGO creations in a blog post for LEGO fans.
The IceCube Collaboration has made public today that a new search for cosmogenic neutrinos resulted in two very high energy neutrinos. These neutrinos, which are found to be of astrophysical origin with a 92.3% probability, include the highest energy neutrino detected to date. While of astrophysical origin, the energy of these neutrinos does not match the expectation for a cosmogenic neutrino flux. The lack of evidence for such events in a search of seven years of IceCube data places very strong constraints on the sources of UHECR. Proton-dominated sources are greatly disfavored, and testing mixed and heavy nuclei cosmic-ray sources will require much bigger instruments, such as an extension of IceCube or radio Askaryan neutrino detectors. These results have been submitted yesterday to Physical Review Letters.
The IceCube Collaboration presents results from a search for sources of high-energy neutrons using four years of data from IceTop, the surface detector array. Researchers have not found any evidence for astrophysical neutrons, but the results have allowed the collaboration to set new limits that constrain the possible galactic neutron sources. These results have just been submitted to the Astrophysical Journal.
The Precision IceCube Next Generation Upgrade (PINGU) is the proposed infill extension in a region at the center of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory that will lower the energy threshold to a few GeV, dramatically increasing both the number of GeV-scale neutrinos detected by IceCube and, more importantly, the precision with which they are measured.
South Pole, dead of winter, no sun for months. So, that rules out a rainbow in the above image. Instead it’s an aurora, but it was doing its best, with its graceful arch, to imitate a rainbow.
IceCube researchers are once more joining the longstanding biennial Neutrino conference. The 27th International Conference on Neutrino Physics and Astrophysics, Neutrino 2016, started on Monday in London, England, and runs through Saturday, July 9.
It’s the middle of winter at the South Pole, and not only is it dark outside, but there are restrictions in place to keep it as dark as possible (exterior lights limited to a red spectrum, to reduce interference) for the benefit of research projects that rely on the dark night sky.
Last week, they were observing midwinter at the South Pole station, which traditionally includes a fancy dinner and a viewing of "The Shining."
A completed jigsaw puzzle serves as a base for holding a sizeable LEGO creation. This model looks to be of London’s Tower Bridge, but perhaps someone should talk to the LEGO folks about designing one for the ICL (the IceCube Lab). Wouldn’t that be fun?
Last week at the Pole the entire winterover crew got together to take a group photo. They normally do this each year, but not always with such spectacular results. This year they chose an outdoor venue with an aurora backdrop.
Station life was quiet last week. Outside, the auroras kept themselves a bit quiet, too. Instead, folks were treated to a nice moon halo on display.
On Sunday, June 5, IceCube will be part of the “take over” of Washington Square Park for Street Science, a free World Science Festival event. Dozens of research groups are offering hands-on activities, demonstrations, and exhibits to engage curious visitors of all ages.
The IceCube Collaboration presents a new search for dark matter annihilation from the galactic center and halo using cascade events, i.e., particle showers created by the interaction of electron and tau neutrinos and Z-boson mediated muon neutrinos. Scientists searched for interactions starting in the DeepCore subarray between May 2011 and May 2012 and found no neutrino excess with respect to the background-only hypothesis, which allowed them to derive upper limits on dark matter candidates with masses between 30 GeV and 10 TeV. These results have been submitted today to the European Physical Journal C.
Space: the final frontier. These are the images of IceCube winterover Mack van Rossem. Well, he’s not in space, and he may not exactly be “boldly going where no man has gone before,” but he is spending a year in one of the most remote locations on Earth—the South Pole.
“On behalf of the operations group, I’m happy to report that as of run 127950 on 2016-05-20, 20:38:47 UTC, we have started the IC86-2016 physics run.” With these words, every IceCuber learned that we were entering a new year of data for IceCube.
Not a particularly busy or hectic week at the Pole—quiet punctuated by work, or work punctuated by quiet, depending on how you look at things. Now, depending on where, not how, you’re looking, you get to see where the action is this time of year at the South Pole.
Under a sky lit by auroras, you can see the path through the Dark Sector, bright enough to make out the flag line for quite a ways into the distance. It’s a different story when there are no auroras or bright moon to illuminate things.
It’s aurora season at the South Pole. Two lone figures—both of IceCube’s winterovers—were out on the ice capturing images of the night sky. Although it’s a night sky, that tells us nothing about what time of day it is since it’s winter there and the sun remains down for about six months at a stretch.
The IceCube Collaboration has performed two independent searches for light sterile neutrinos, both with one year of data, searching for sterile neutrinos in the energy range between approximately 320 GeV and 20 TeV. IceCube has not found any anomalous disappearance of muon neutrinos and has placed new exclusion limits on the parameter space of the 3+1 model, a scenario with only one sterile neutrino. These results have been submitted today to Physical Review Letters.
IceCube winterover Mack’s Ecuadorian devil’s mask looks extra devilish under the red lights as he stands for a photo in his cold weather gear after coming in from outside.
Today, the IceCube Collaboration presents a new technique to lower the energy threshold for neutrino detection while keeping a pointing resolution to within less than a degree. IceCube researchers have used this technique in a joint search with data from a previous analysis using throughgoing muon neutrinos. No point source has been found, but sensitivity for searches below 100 TeV has been improved by a factor of ten.
IceCube winterover Mack van Rossem stands, with a full moon and the IceCube Lab (ICL) in the background, all geared up and ready to tackle IceTop measurements. Nice mask!
With the darkness of winter settling in, it’s time to cover the windows. It’s also time for winterizing outdoor equipment and vehicles. Although a large fleet of vehicles is needed for summer activity, most of them are left idle for the winter.
The IceCube spring 2016 meeting begins today at Stony Brook University. Assistant Professor Joanna Kiryluk is hosting the weeklong meeting at the Charles B. Wang Center. Pre-meetings were held at Columbia University in New York on April 16-18.
It was a relatively tranquil week at the Pole, but not without its interruptions—April Fool's Day pranks among them. The waning light in the sky is beginning to lend a little eeriness to photos.
A mushroom cloud … at the South Pole? What’s going on down there? What’s going on is actually a rising full moon getting distorted by the atmosphere. Pretty cool image.
With so little time left above the horizon, the sun is making a nice spectacle of itself at the South Pole. Here we see it bright and orange and surrounded by a clear halo as it hovers above the satellite stations.
The National Science Foundation today, March 30, 2016, announced that it has renewed a cooperative agreement with the University of Wisconsin–Madison to operate IceCube. The five-year, $35 million award entails the continued operation and management of the observatory located at NSF’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. In 2013, the IceCube Collaboration reported the first detection of high-energy cosmic neutrinos, opening a new astronomical vista on the universe and on some of its most violent phenomena.
Last week there were a few alarm calls in the cryo building. The first one interrupted an outreach webcast, and then there was another one later the same day. The photo shows the emergency response team on their return from one of those calls. You can see that the sun is still out, just a few degrees above the horizon.
On a clear sunny day, it’s easy to make out the buildings at the end of the road to the Dark Sector, but the flag line is set up for the winter months, when darkness and extreme temperatures reign and you really can’t afford to get lost out there.
The third edition of the IceCube Masterclass hosted over 200 students at 10 institutions in Belgium, Germany, and the US. Madison (WI) hosted the first edition in Spanish, attended by 28 Hispanic high school students. Masterclasses were held on March 2 and March 9.
There’s a beautiful half moon in this image, can you spot it? Well, it is a little small in the photo—but sometimes we don’t notice the moon out during the day because we’re not expecting it. However, we shouldn’t be surprised see it then, since it’s often visible.
The IceCube Collaboration is updating the cosmic ray anisotropy maps using 318 billion cosmic-ray-induced muon events detected in IceCube between May 2009 and May 2015. The larger data sample allowed discerning new regions in the anisotropy maps, which shed some light on the physical processes that stir up the variations in the arrival direction of cosmic rays. These results have been recently submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
Chairs and sofas (and mattresses!) have been set up in the gym, all for the sake of movie-watching comfort. It’s unclear how they vied for best seats. But some padding or support is imperative when you’re going to hunker down for three movies in a row—or rather, three versions of the same movie. Yes, we’re talking about The Thing, the traditional entertainment springboard to ring in the beginning of the winter season at the South Pole.
A cloud of snow dust appears in the wake of the last flight out of the South Pole for the season. Well…almost. It was supposed to be the last flight, but unforeseen circumstances (they do crop up every so often) caused a few summer personnel to delay their departure a few more days. Delays can be a nuisance, but so close to the end of the summer season, they’re even more likely to produce anxiety since in winter there’s no leaving the Pole once the last flight has gone.
Maybe we should all do this with our packages from now on. Mail and cargo arrived last week, and someone set out the contents of one of the boxes quite decoratively for the photo. To efficiently unload the goods when they arrived, they formed an assembly line going up the stairs to the station.
The detection of the first gravitational wave (GW) event by LIGO represents one of the greatest scientific breakthroughs of recent years. After receiving the gravitational wave alert in September 2015 from the Advanced LIGO detector, the IceCube and ANTARES neutrino telescopes analyzed the data they had recorded at the same time in order to search for neutrinos that might have been emitted from the same event. Neither search identified any neutrinos that could be associated with the burst. These results set the first limits on neutrino emission from a GW transient event.
Last week, the South Pole traverse finished unloading the supply of fuel it had brought, transferring it all to the tanks on station. They should be all set for winter, which is long at the South Pole and is fast approaching.
When traveling to the South Pole, you have to be prepared for delays. But last week it was the station, not the travelers, that was not quite prepared—with a summer population close to its limits, it had to creatively house dozens of passengers left behind from departing planes that boomeranged.
Four new arrivals reported to the South Pole ready for duty after experiencing considerable travel delays. They donned their white lab coats and got to work, performing test runs and installing cabling (looks like fun!)—and they even fit in some time to join a scheduled outreach webcast to talk about their work and travels.
Today, the IceCube Collaboration announces a new search for neutrino emission from GRBs with a first-ever search that covers all flavors and the full sky. Five events were found to have a low-significance correlation with five GRBs. Consequently, the analysis places tight constraints on current models of neutrino and ultra-high-energy cosmic ray (UHECR) production in GRBs. These results have just been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.
Now you see it, now you don’t. These images show the spot of the geographical South Pole, just before and after the old marker was removed. At the beginning of each year, a new marker is situated at the current location, which shifts constantly due to the movement of the ice sheet.
Every New Year’s Day, they have a celebration at the Pole in which they plant a newly designed marker for the location of the ever-shifting geographic pole. The spot is repositioned annually due to movement of the polar ice sheet at about 10 meters per year.
Last week saw the arrival of IceCube’s second winterover, Mack van Rossem, finally (an unusual glitch this year left IceCube with only one winterover until now). Mack got to jump right in, driving the scout for the regular December snow survey. He also arrived in time for traditional holiday events and festivities.
In 2013, the IceCube Collaboration published the world’s best limits on the spin-dependent cross section for weakly interacting dark matter particles. They were derived from the non-observation of annihilation into neutrinos of dark matter gravitationally trapped by the Sun.
Now, the collaboration presents a new likelihood formalism that allows easy integration of any neutrino telescope data into analyses of dark matter theories.
It was a rather busy week at the Pole. Besides people coming and going, there was the first IceCube webcast of the season, with a school from Wisconsin and two schools from Greece joining the event. An unexpected fire drill was also held last week. It turned out to be a timely drill, since the next day a genuine fire alarm sounded, triggered by a faulty oxygen sensor, not by an actual fire.
Decades ago, the aspiration to build a kilometer-scale neutrino detector at the South Pole seemed farfetched; today, we celebrate the 5-year anniversary of this incredible achievement. Shortly after 6 pm New Zealand time on December 18, 2010, the final sensor was lowered into the ice. This completed the decade-long construction effort that started with the design and fabrication of detector systems and concluded with the installation of the final string of sensors.
We’ve discussed sastrugi before, but this one deserves special attention for its shape. It sure does look like a frozen finger, doesn’t it? And it’s pointing the way to IceCube.
The number of IceCube personnel at the South Pole station during the past few summers is nothing like it used to be. Back in the days of detector construction, the number of staff on the ice would be in the double digits at this point. Instead, this week’s current count is six, including the recent arrival seen in the photo.
We weren’t kidding that there are a lot of training sessions for activities at the Pole. Last week saw some more training—fire fighters in search and rescue missions. Afterward, they all lined up for a group photo on the stairs outside the ICL.
In a new study by the IceCube, Pierre Auger, and Telescope Array Collaborations, scientists have looked for correlations between the highest energy neutrino candidates in IceCube and the highest energy cosmic rays in these two cosmic-ray observatories. The results, submitted today to the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics, have not found any correlation at discovery level. However, potentially interesting results have been found and will continue to be studied in future joint analyses.
There are training sessions for just about everything that goes on at the South Pole. Dropping cargo from an airplane is no exception. Last week, a C-17 performed the annual air drop training, shown here against a spectacular blue-sky backdrop just after releasing its cargo, which can be seen as a tiny speck off to the left, slowly parachuting to the ground
A steady wind shows the flags at the ceremonial South Pole aligning themselves quite neatly. Flying conditions were good for most of the week, with several incoming flights bringing more summer visitors to the Pole, including the first IceCube team members to join the winterovers this season.
Clear weather allowed most of the scheduled flights to make it to the Pole last week, with a stream of new arrivals from each plane. Inside the galley, the new summer crowd and the few remaining winterover staff do a good job of filling up the space.
New results submitted today to the Astrophysical Journal are the outcome of a combined search for neutrino point sources performed by the ANTARES and IceCube collaborations. No source has been identified, but the combined search improves the sensitivity to point sources by up to a factor of two, which delivers more stringent upper limits on the flux for the candidate sources considered in this analysis.
It’s that time of year for the “changing of the guard”—for IceCube’s winterovers, that is. Last week, Christian Krueger, one of IceCube’s 2015-16 winterovers, arrived alone and can be seen walking back from the plane alongside Stephan Richter, current winterover, who was on hand to greet him.
The IceCube Collaboration today presents a search for relativistic and mildly relativistic monopoles using two years of data. No monopole candidate was observed, but IceCube data allowed setting very stringent limits for the range of velocities studied. These results have been submitted today to European Physical Journal C.
IceCube winterover Stephan Richter took this wide angle shot of the South Pole station's galley---in a completely empty state, not likely to found this way much longer since summer personnel will be arriving soon. The galley will be a bit busier with the expanded station population.
Neutrino physicists spend a lot of time in the dark. As a figurative statement this reflects how difficult neutrinos are to understand, but it also reveals the literal sense that we work with experiments that do not see a lot of sun—and it’s not just the South Pole, it’s also in mines, tunnels, and deep underwater in seas and lakes. But just like a rare neutrino interaction, every so often a brief flash of light offers some new truth about the nature of our universe.
The first planes of the season have arrived at the South Pole. Two planes landed last week, first a Basler (bearing gifts) and later a Twin Otter, shown in this image.
The winterover crew gathered at the geographic South Pole for their annual group shot.
It was a relatively quiet week for the IceCube detector, but busy in general for the station. It’s that time of year, post sunrise, when preparations for summer arrivals are in full swing.
The IceCube Collaboration’s fall 2015 meeting begins today at the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark. Assistant Professor Jason Koskinen and Niels Bohr Professor Subir Sarkar of the University of Copenhagen host the weeklong meeting.
The last thing you want to forget to pack when you’re off to the South Pole for a year is … your lederhosen. Afterall, Oktoberfest is among the many things that winterovering folks celebrate at the station.
With the sun now up, outdoor preparations for summer activity at the South Pole station will move into higher gear. Calm weather last week provided an opportunity to groom the skiway, shown in this image, where the Earth’s shadow is still visible in the sky as a blue band just above the horizon.
The National Research Foundation of Korea has awarded Seongjin In, a graduate student at Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) and known as Jin within the IceCube community, with a 2015 Global PhD Fellowship (GPF).
Sunrise is slowly coming along at the South Pole, with some refracted light showing over the horizon on clear days. The impending orange glow appears to be approaching the ICL in this image.
The Physics Department of UW–River Falls hosts summer internships for young college students that allow them to engage in IceCube and other polar science projects. Over the 10-week internship, they become a member of the team, where they learn to program and to tackle challenging scientific questions. And, as you will read here, they also get a chance to share their experience.
Today the IceCube Collaboration has presented a search for tau neutrinos at energies above 214 TeV that, although it did not find any events, allowed setting upper limits on the astrophysical tau neutrino flux. This search sets limits on tau neutrinos at energies three orders of magnitude lower than the energies reached by previous dedicated tau neutrino searches. And more importantly, the results now submitted to Physical Review D also prove that tau neutrino searches in IceCube are reaching the sensitivity for a potential discovery.
The landscape at the South Pole continues to brighten, making it perhaps harder to ignore the extent of snow accumulation at the IceCube Lab. But snow removal wasn’t on the table last week, which was a quiet one all around for the IceCube winterovers.
In a paper submitted today to the Astrophysical Journal, the IceCube Collaboration presents results of a search for astrophysical sources of transient neutrino emission using a sample of low-energy—30 to 300 GeV—muon neutrino events from DeepCore. Although no source is singled out, the study sets limits on soft-spectra models, such as energetic or nearby choked GRBs.
Although the sunrise is still not officially here, the South Pole is enjoying a period of twilight. The horizon is clearly visible in the direction of the sun and is showing some characteristic orange color. The photo shows this nicely, with the added effect that reflection in the station windows gives the appearance of a clear view through the windows of the continuous horizon.
The “IRES: U.S.-European International Research Experience-Particle Astrophysics for Undergraduates” program, funded by NSF and led by the University of Wisconsin–River Falls, brought us to Johannes Gutenburg University in Mainz, Germany, this summer to work with Professor Lutz Köpke and Professor Sebastian Böser.
Francis Halzen, IceCube principal investigator and Hilldale and Gregory Breit Distinguished Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, was announced yesterday as one of the prestigious international 2015 Balzan prizewinners.
The South Pole station’s windows were exposed last week, after being covered up (decoratively, we might add) for over four months now. Outside, it still looks more like night than day, but things will gradually brighten up, and then the windows might need to be covered for a different reason—to promote a better sleeping environment.
International Research Experiences for Students (IRES) is a program funded by the National Science Foundation to support active participation of US undergraduates in international research projects. Laura Lusardi from New Richmond, WI, and Kelsey Kolell from Fond du Lac, WI, participated in the IRES program through UW–River Falls to work on IceCube research for the summer.
We are both third-year undergraduate students, studying physics at the University of Wisconsin–River Falls. This summer, we had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Germany through IRES to work with IceCube researchers. Even though we both ended up attending the same university, we took wildly different paths to get here.
The sun is not yet up, but the sky is definitely brightening in its direction. The image below, however, shows that it’s still early twilight and generally quite dark at the Pole. This photo was taken at the same location and time as the one above, just in the opposite direction—quite the contrast.
When I came to Yale three years ago, I did not expect to major in physics. Yet, after taking my first class in the subject, it was not long before its fundamental nature and incredible universality had reeled me in for good. Since then, I have sought out opportunities to explore the field and learn what it really means to be a physicist. I joined Assistant Professor Reina Maruyama’s lab this past January and a few months later found myself working on DM-Ice and IceCube. Now, as I gear up for my final year of college, I am spending my summer on campus, conducting research on coincident muon events between the enormous IceCube (1 cubic km) and comparatively miniature (2,309 cubic cm) DM-Ice17 detectors.
The previous week’s feature image showed the South Pole Telescope with the moon setting behind it. Here we see it again, but set against an aurora backdrop while its dish is scanning the sky for CMB (cosmic microwave background) mapping.
Today, the IceCube Collaboration announces a new observation of high-energy neutrinos that originated beyond our solar system. This study, which looked for neutrinos coming from the Northern Hemisphere, confirms their cosmic origin as well as the presence of extragalactic neutrinos and the intensity of the neutrino rate. The first evidence for astrophysical neutrinos was announced by the collaboration in November 2013. The results published now in ''Physical Review Letters'' are the first independent confirmation of this discovery.
It’s still dark at the South Pole, with sunrise not for a while yet. So don’t be confused—that was the moon, not the sun, setting behind the South Pole Telescope. Once it had set, some bright and lively green auroras took over the sky.
Last week at the Pole they had Christmas in July. Since the seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are the reverse of the Northern Hemisphere, many southern locales celebrate in July or August so that they can have a wintry feel to their festivities. The South Pole station had a tree, presents, and plenty of sweets on hand for theirs.
The IceCube Collaboration has a strong presence at the 34th International Cosmic Ray Conference (ICRC 2015) with over 50 presentations and posters. ICRC started on July 30 and runs through August 6 in The Hague, Netherlands.
The Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network (AMON) will link existing and future high-energy astrophysical observatories into a single virtual system, enabling near real-time coincidence searches for multimessenger astrophysical transients and their electromagnetic counterparts and providing alerts to follow-up observatories.
You might not know you’re at the South Pole from the photo of this watermelon. But there it is, growing in the greenhouse at the station, only a little bigger than a tennis ball at the moment. With it’s supportive, handmade hammock, hopefully it will reach a nice size and ripeness for the crew to enjoy.
It’s dark at the Pole, and even a headlamp’s light only goes so far. Paths to outlying buildings are lined with flags before winter arrives, when there’s still sufficient light for the installation. On a moonless winter night, though, there’s no question that the flag line has a value much greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a real lifesaver.
They’re watching something—but what? This is the communications (or “Comms”) office at the South Pole station. Not normally the site for recreational activities, but last week it played host to participants in an international darts tournament among the Antarctic stations.
The IceCube Collaboration is now revisiting these results in a combined analysis accepted for publication in The Astrophysical Journal. The analysis is based on the results of six individual studies and uses up to three observables—energy, zenith angle and event topology—to derive improved constraints on the energy spectrum and the composition of neutrino flavors of the astrophysical neutrino flux.
Jakob van Santen, a former graduate student working on IceCube at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) and currently a postdoc at DESY (Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron) in Zeuthen, and Juan Pablo Yáñez, also working on IceCube at DESY in Zeuthen, were recently awarded a Dissertation Prize from the Global Neutrino Network. This is the first year that the GNN Dissertation Prize has been awarded. It recognizes young postdoctoral candidates who have written an outstanding thesis and contributed significantly to their projects.
Ah, the 4th of July—barbecues everywhere, even at the South Pole. But, not only is it winter there now, with snow and ice, it’s been extremely cold lately, with long stretches of low temperatures, down to below –100 °F.
IceCube winterover Erik Beiser was captured in the above image silhouetted by the rising moon while out taking aurora photos himself.
In a new study presented a few days ago, the IceCube Collaboration reports the potential of atmospheric muons detected in IceCube to help our understanding of important properties of cosmic rays in a wide range of energies. These muons are also shown to be useful for investigating systematic uncertainties in neutrino studies in IceCube. Measurements of the composition of primary cosmic rays, the high-energy spectrum of muons, and the prompt flux are three of the highlights of this paper, which was submitted last Friday to Astroparticle Physics.
If you blur your vision slightly, the green tablecloth might be mistaken as grass and the entire scene as one of a summertime outdoor picnic. But it’s still winter at the South Pole—midwinter to be precise, one of several milestones they traditionally celebrate with a special dinner.
South Pole … greenhouse? That’s right. One of the coldest places on the planet hosts a very nice, warm greenhouse, replete with tomatoes and leafy greens. It’s a jungle in there.
They’re getting fancy at the Pole—wide angles showing off curves and long exposures leaving star trails in the night sky. With its long stretch of darkness broken only by spells of auroras or the rising of a sunlike moon, winter makes the South Pole a captivating place.
On March 30, 2012, IceCube detected two high-energy neutrino events. IceCube immediately sent an alert to several optical and X-ray telescopes—the Robotic Optical Transient Search Experiment (ROTSE), the Palomar Transient Factory (PTF) and the Swift satellite—and a core-collapse supernova was discovered in the PTF images. However, physicists have shown that this was a coincidental discovery and that this supernova is not likely to be the source of the neutrinos in IceCube. These results have been submitted today to the Astrophysical Journal and are the outcome of a joint study between the IceCube Collaboration and members of the PTF Collaboration, the Swift Collaboration and the Pan-STARRS1 Science Consortium.
In a new analysis of the IceCube Collaboration, a search for dark matter annihilation at the Galactic Center is presented using data from May 2010 to May 2011. The highest density of dark matter in the Milky Way is anticipated to concentrate in its center. Dark-matter self-annihilation should then produce a flux of muon neutrinos and other particles that peaks in the direction of this region, which is seen in the Southern Hemisphere by IceCube. The search did not find a neutrino excess, and the researchers have set new limits on the dark-matter self-annihilation cross section. These results have been submitted today to European Physical Journal C.
Is that the sun or the moon? That’s the moon alright—since it’s still winter at the South Pole, we know the sun has set and won’t show itself again for awhile. But with such a bright moon, you can see for quite some distance.
The auroras have been been bright and lively lately. And even though this one curves downward, it does not bring a frown to mind. In fact, in the the full-sky panorama view it converts to a smile.
Prof. Botner is now starting her second term as the spokesperson for IceCube. Her colleagues have again chosen her to lead the collaboration, and she is ready to continue what is a highly demanding but also rewarding task.
Last week was fairly quiet as far as the IceCube detector went—no major happenings there. But the sky, on the other hand, what a scene! The auroras (australis, that is) were particularly brilliant and striking.
Not everyone begins a new year on January 1, right? That includes IceCubers, who decided a while ago that mid May would be a good time to start a new year of data for the South Pole neutrino observatory.
The IC86-2014 physics run ended on May 18, 2015, wrapping up another successful year for the IceCube detector.
With the sun gone, they can cover up their windows all they want to prevent indoor light from getting outdoors, but they can’t stop the moon from shining. And last week, the moon was out full force, illuminating some interesting structures in the landscape.
Winterovers at the South Pole keep their emergency response skills fresh by holding regular drills. Last week was the missing person drill. And even though they are in the Dark Sector, where outdoor lighting is generally eliminated in winter, they had to turn flood lights on the outside of the station to be able to safely guide the drill team back.
IceCube’s winterovers spend about thirteen months at the South Pole, trained for and ready to tackle a variety of situations needing their attention. Some weeks are very busy, and some weeks less so, but there is always something going on.
The Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) is pleased to host the IceCube Spring Collaboration Meeting, from April 27th to May 2nd, as well as the 2015 IceCube Particle Astrophysics Symposium: Cosmic Neutrinos, What Next? (IPA 2015), from May 4th to 6th. Both conferences will be held at Union South on the University of Wisconsin–Madison campus.
Although there is still a little bit of twilight left in the direction of the sun, the auroras have made their appearance at the South Pole. And the winterover team was treated to several good displays this week.
In a new analysis by the IceCube Collaboration, the atmospheric electron neutrino spectrum is measured at energies between 0.1 TeV and 100 TeV, extending previous measurements to higher energies and yielding improved precision. The results, which have been submitted to Physical Review D, find good agreement with models of the conventional electron neutrino flux.
Have we mentioned that the ICL (IceCube Lab) is a rather photogenic building? I think we have, recently—and although the sun has now officially set, there was still enough residual light last week to get a nice shot of the ICL—in shadow with a clear, colorful sky behind it.
Very little snow actually falls at the South Pole. Antarctica as a whole is the driest continent on Earth, and the South Pole, with its high altitude and distance from the coasts, receives the least precipitation. Yet, there is snow everywhere, blown in from elsewhere, and drifts can quickly become unwieldy if not dealt with.
The sun takes its time setting at the South Pole. And even after it has officially set, there remains an afterglow in the sky. This lingering light and some low horizontal clouds produced a beautiful orange backdrop last week to some of the dark sector buildings.
With the equinox last week, the annual sunset dinner was held at the South Pole station. It’s a celebration for a unique sunset that most of us don’t get to experience—where the sun sets slowly over time and, once set, does not reappear for another six months.
The South Pole observatory IceCube has recorded evidence that elusive elementary particles called neutrinos changing their identity as they travel through the Earth and its atmosphere. The observation of these neutrino oscillations, first announced in 1998 by the Super Kamiokande experiment in Japan, opens up new possibilities for particle physics with the Antarctic telescope that was originally designed to detect neutrinos from faraway sources in the cosmos.
The second edition of the IceCube Masterclass took place on Wednesday, March 18, at nine institutions in the US and Europe, and on Saturday, March 14, at the University of Ghent. All in all, 175 high school students analyzed IceCube data in the search for astrophysical neutrinos and cosmic rays.
Close up, with the sun behind it, or from a distance, with the sun shining upon its face, the ICL, or IceCube Lab, is a rather photogenic building, with its blue, elevated structure and shiny, symmetrical towers. A low, bright sun makes its towers gleam, and the shadows that it casts stretch on and on.
The temperatures have been dropping, into the –50s °C, while the sun continues to get lower in the sky. These overcast photos give a sense of the impending darkness.
It was a week of acronyms and snow surveys. Each year at the Pole, before the darkness of winter sets in, IceCube winterovers take advantage of the still available daylight to complete tasks that can’t be managed well in the dark. This week, one of those chores was surveying snow depths from accumulations around the IceTop stations. They got going after they drove an LMC out of the VMF.
Searches with IceCube have so far persistently shown us that more data is needed to reveal the first cosmic ray source. But IceCube researchers are convinced that success also requires a resolute determination to exploit IceCube data in every possible manner. In a new study submitted today to the Astrophysical Journal, the collaboration presents a search for time-dependent astrophysical neutrino sources that did not find any evidence for their existence. The study did however make it possible to set upper limits on the neutrino flux from several source candidates and has proven IceCube’s capabilities for long-term monitoring of sources triggered by multiwavelength information from several experiments.
AMANDA collaborator, first IceCube spokesperson, initiated DeepCore, esteemed colleague and beloved friend.
What’s the easiest way to get a nicely centered picture of an approaching airplane on the ice at the South Pole? Have it taxi straight toward you. Here's the last Herc of the season to arrive at the Pole, just as it came to a stop.
The week began with some extra-nice halos and ended with an exodus of most of the summer people at the Pole. In between, there was typical detector maintenance as well as continued snow management around the IceCube Lab.
Giant spools sure do serve as a great photo prop. Now empty, these spools had a previous life, brought to the Pole full of cable and ready for action, for use on IceCube and other nearby experiments. But then what to do with them?
In a new measurement of the flavor ratio of astrophysical neutrinos, submitted today to Physical Review Letters, the IceCube Collaboration has found good agreement with the standard source model. The collaboration also sets limits on nonstandard flavor compositions, which could be a signature for new physics in the neutrino sector, such as neutrino decay or sterile neutrinos.
Last week we saw a sun halo, and a few weeks back we saw the newly inaugurated South Pole marker. Lo and behold, they have come together. Great shot!
Dawn Williams, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, has been named the February Woman Physicist of the Month by APS’s Committee on the Status of Women in Physics.
This “ring around the sun” is a halo, an optical phenomenon that occurs from light interacting with ice crystals in the atmosphere. It’s not an uncommon phenomenon, but for those who have never seen one, it’s quite something to behold. Halos can appear around the moon as well as the sun.
At first glance it looks like IceCube winterover Stephan has sprouted some new teeth at the Pole. But they’re just ice clumps, not to worry. Stephan got them while he was participating in a half marathon—and out in the extreme cold, with temperatures around -30 °C, this is not an event for the faint of heart.
Tagged any good muons lately? Maybe you just aren’t using the right equipment. Last week at the South Pole, IceCube folks set up equipment for some muon tagger runs—special calibration tests of the IceTop stations. You can see the various components that they set up, with the IceCube Laboratory (ICL) some distance off in the background.
Yet another year has come to an end for IceCube with plenty of new science results, an always growing international collaboration, and plans for an update to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. In the meantime, the detector’s performance has broken still another record, and many outreach activities, including the recently launched IceCube Masterclass, accompanied this hectic scientific activity.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory team is anxiously awaiting the arrival of Armando Caussade at the South Pole. Caussade’s long journey from Puerto Rico to the frozen, windy desert that he will call home for a couple of weeks started on January 2, 2015. Although he arrived as scheduled at McMurdo Station on the coast of Antarctica on January 5, 2015, the last leg of his journey to the South Pole has been delayed two days so far due to poor weather.
Although you might expect that it would remain fixed, the marker at the geographic South Pole is moved on a regular basis. Since the polar ice sheet is constantly shifting, at about 10 meters per year, the marker at the South Pole must be relocated to maintain its position. A new marker is crafted each year and inaugurated in a special ceremony on January 1st.
The year wrapped up nicely at the South Pole, with the traditional holiday dinner and the Race Around the World on Christmas morning. Both of IceCube’s winterovers participated in the run. Other winterovers were busy constructing a handsome gingerbread house for seasonal charm.
Gamma-ray bursts (GRBs) were once the most promising candidate source of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays (UHECRs). They release extremely large amounts of energy in short periods of time, so if they could accelerate protons as they do electrons, then GRBs could account for most of the observed UHECRs.
Summer upgrades to the SPS (South Pole System), part of IceCube’s computing infrastructure, were completed this week, and two IceCubers who had been working at the Pole, Ralf and James, left for warmer climes.
Prof. Olga Botner, IceCube spokesperson and a physics professor at the University of Uppsala, and Prof. Francis Halzen, IceCube principal investigator and a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, tell us about the plans for an upgrade to the IceCube Neutrino Observatory. As an extension of the current detector, it can be built in a few years and within an affordable budget, thanks to expertise acquired with IceCube.
Building a cubic-kilometer telescope at the South Pole seemed a chimera even for some of those involved in the project. The goal was simple in words but seemingly impossible in practice: 86 boreholes, each 60 cm in diameter and 2,500 m deep, had to be drilled and instrumented in seven austral summer seasons. Safety was a must, fuel needed to be used cautiously and the South Pole environment was just unavoidable.
Indoor tasks can be done just about any time, but for outdoor activities you need some cooperation from the weather. A bright sunny day makes things better still. Even with a few bouts of bad weather that caused postponements, there was plenty of outdoor work accomplished this week.
Registration for the 2015 IceCube Masterclass, to take place on March 18th at ten IceCube hosting institutions, is open to high school students in their last two years before college.
Just in time for Thanksgiving dinner, the South Pole traverse arrived, bringing fuel that would otherwise have had to come by plane. IceCube winterover Stefan skied out to check it out
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s … no, wait, it’s just a plane. Actually, it’s a particular plane—a C-17, a large military transport aircraft—training for air drops over the South Pole station.
The IceCube Collaboration is saddened to hear of the loss of Thomas Lawrence Atkins, a contract worker at NSF's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. We greatly appreciate the sacrifice that contractors make to support science teams like ours at the South Pole. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Atkins’ family and friends at this difficult time.
Last week, winterovers Erik and Stephan arrived, and this week Dag and Ian are leaving. Here they are, all four together out on the ice for the last time.
Another summer season at the South Pole station means another changing of the guard for IceCube’s winterovers. This year’s Erik Beiser and Stephan Richter have arrived, two fresh faces ready to embark on their yearlong adventure, while Dag Larsen and Ian Rees, last year’s winterovers, made their final preparations for leaving the ice.
After a long winter, South Pole inhabitants are getting used to the sunlight again. Up north, a bunch of IceCubers are getting ready for their Antarctic adventure. For some of them, it’s all about the excitement of a first trip to Antarctica. For some others, it’s an almost annual appointment that makes their job a special one.
There’s a bit of prep work involved in getting the station ready for its summer opening. IceCube winterovers Ian and Dag used this time to perform an IceTop snow survey and to finish up snow removal around the ICL.
For a place that receives so little precipitation, there’s an awful lot of snow around. So much snow that bulldozers are sometimes enlisted to move it out of the way, as shown here in front of this parked Basler jet. Planes can get stuck at the South Pole for days on end due to bad weather. And if high winds are part of that bad weather, then snow accumulation can be a problem.
Last year, an initial measurement of the neutrino oscillation parameters was a hint that IceCube could become an important detector for studying neutrino oscillations. Today, the IceCube Collaboration has submitted new results to Physical Review Letters that present an improved measurement of the oscillation parameters, via atmospheric muon neutrino disappearance, which is compatible and comparable in precision to those of dedicated oscillation experiments such as MINOS, T2K or Super-Kamiokande.
After the sun’s arrival come the planes. The first of the season to reach the South Pole were a pair of Twin Otters, one of which appears parked in the accompanying image. Behind it is a Basler jet—a somewhat larger ski aircraft—shown just as it was landing, a few days later.
Water restrictions prompt innovation. When already limited showers get rationed even further, as they have been recently at the South Pole station, you start thinking of ways to work around the problem.
Francis Halzen, the University of Wisconsin-Madison physicist who was the driving force behind the giant neutrino telescope known as IceCube at the South Pole, has been named a winner of the 2014 American Ingenuity Award.
Ah, the things we take for granted. Sunshine might be one of them. Running water might be another. At the Pole, sometimes you have to do without.
The IceCube Collaboration has expanded the search for neutrino interactions in IceCube, lowering the range of deposited energy down to 1 TeV. The goal was a better understanding of the different contributions to the neutrino flux in IceCube and hopefully to measure the charmed-meson component for the first time. The results of this study have been submitted today to Physical Review D.
Now that the sun is back at the South Pole, there’s nowhere to hide. You can walk outside and see everything—everything that was there in the darkness all winter long, like buildings and fixed structures, as well as other things that weren’t there but have recently reappeared, like the flags at the ceremonial pole.
After months and months of darkness, it’s no wonder that the sun’s return to the South Pole is anxiously awaited. Finally, thanks to sufficient ambient light levels, the current winterovers can get a nice group photo outside.
As dawn approaches, the sky is cast in a glow that reflects off the sides of the South Pole station. Inside the station, they’ve begun to remove the window covers that remain in place all winter, there to minimize light pollution for sensitive experiments at the Pole.
The IceCube Collaboration has submitted a paper today to the European Physical Journal C describing a new analysis scheme for the measurement of the atmospheric neutrino spectrum with the IceCube detector.
There’s the moon, but where’s the sun? It’s coming, it’s coming. At the South Pole, the sun rises only once a year (and it sets only once a year, too).
The IceCube Collaboration’s fall 2014 meeting begins today at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The weeklong meeting is hosted by professor Teresa Montaruli of the University of Geneva.
As with any week at the Pole, activities involved a mix of work and play, from maintenance on a large Cat loader to announcement of results from the Winter Antarctic Film Festival.
If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. Not so for auroras. These spellbinding light shows come in various patterns, shapes, and colors. They might appear as bright, strong bands of color, stretching across the full sky. Or as wispy, cloud-like streaks, confined to a single quadrant.
Kids, don’t try this at home. At least not without proper equipment. Here some winterovers are learning to use what they call the “confidence chair,” a specialized piece of equipment for evacuating injured people from multilevel buildings.
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.
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 continued 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 or so 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