Getting Science Beyond the Research Community: Examples of Education and Outreach from the IceCube Project


image James Madsen, for the IceCube Collaboration (Submitted on 7 Oct 2011)

The IceCube collaboration has built an in-ice neutrino telescope and a surface detector array, IceTop, at the South Pole. Over 5000 digital optical modules have been deployed in a cubic kilometer of ice between 1450 and 2450 m below the surface. The novel observatory provides a new window to explore the universe. The combination of cutting-edge discovery science and the exotic Antarctic environment is an ideal vehicle to excite and engage a wide audience. Examples of how the international IceCube Collaboration has brought the Universe to a broader audience via the South Pole are described.

Comments: http:/icecube.wisc.edu/collaboration/authors
Subjects: Instrumentation and Methods for Astrophysics (astro-ph.IM)
Cite as: arXiv:1110.1600v1 [astro-ph.IM]
Submission history From: James Madsen [view email] [v1] Fri, 7 Oct 2011 18:16:19 GMT (635kb)

1. Introduction

The international IceCube collaboration has recently completed a multipurpose neutrino and cosmic ray observatory located on the Amundsen Scott Base at the South Pole. After six seasons of construction, the biggest science project ever attempted in Antarctica and one of the largest detectors in the world is providing a new window to view the Universe. The allure of cutting-edge discovery science combined with the exotic Antarctic environment and international partners provide multiple opportunities to excite and engage a wide audience. This proceeding describes examples of the IceCube collaboration's education and outreach efforts targeted for students, teachers and the general public.

2. IceCube

The motivation for the IceCube project was to realize the dream of building a cubic-kilometer scale neutrino telescope to explore the Universe with neutrino messengers. The Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (AMANDA) established the feasibility of using the nearly 3000 m thick ice at the South Pole as medium for detecting neutrinos. A hot water drill was used to melt holes 60 cm in diameter and up to 2450 m deep. Photomultipliers embedded in the ice detected the light resulting from charged particles produced from neutrino interactions in and near the instrumented volume. The novelty of the idea was recognized in 1999 by Scientific American when AMANDA was named the weirdest of the seven wonders of Modern Astronomy [1].

Construction on the IceCube detector began during the 2003-2004 austral summer season. The short construction season annually brings a pulse of activity that offers unique opportunities for real and virtual participation. The Amundsen Scott Station opens around the end of October each year, and the last return flight of the season leaves in mid-February. During construction, IceCube personnel were a significant fraction of the approximately 150 to 200 South Pole population. Typically there were about thirty drillers, with a significant fraction of the drill team returning for most of the six seasons. In addition, there were about 20 other IceCube personnel at the South Pole including scientists, engineers, IT personnel, graduate students and postdoctoral researches, and occasionally, undergraduate students and high school teachers. Two or three IceCube winterovers remain at the South Pole Station to maintain the IceCube observatory during the cold, dark, winter months.

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