Quirks & Quarks

Neutrino Hunting - From SNO to Ice Cube

Neutrinos are almost intangible tiny particles but new efforts to detect them coming from distant cosmic events may show a new way to do astronomy.

Trying to catch elusive ghost particles for new insights into the universe

Ice Cube's surface installation. The observatory is buried deeply in the Antarctic ice cap. (Emanuel Jacobi/US National Science Foundation)
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Dr. Darren Grant is a neutrino hunter. He and his colleagues at projects around the world are trying to pin down the most elusive, most mysterious of the sub-atomic particles in the universe. 

The neutrino is among the smallest but most plentiful particles in the universe, and is distinguished by the fact that it ignores most of what we consider to be real matter, and ghosts through the universe, only rarely interacting with normal matter. That makes capturing neutrinos difficult. However, it is also worthwhile to do so, because neutrinos can be created by some of the most violent and interesting events in the universe. And because they travel through most objects, they can provide more information about these events than light or X-rays or any other kind of radiation. 

Dr. Grant, the Canada Research Chair in Astroparticle Physics at the University of Alberta, has been part of the neutrino hunt, first at Canada's SNO in Sudbury, and now with the huge Ice Cube detector in Antarctica, which, this summer, announced a breakthrough in the detection of neutrinos from distant galaxies.

Related Links

- Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
- Ice Cube Neutrino Observatory
BBC News article on latest findings from Ice Cube
Scientific American article on latest findings from Ice Cube