Scientists recommend that the IceCube be eight times larger

Scientists recommend that the IceCube be eight times larger

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, operated by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-M), located at the Amundsen-Scott Antarctic Station in Antarctica, is one of the most ambitious neutrino observatories in the world. Behind the observatory is the IceCube Collaboration, an international group of 300 physicists from 59 institutions in 14 countries. Relying on a cubic kilometer of ice to protect against outside interference, this observatory is dedicated to searching for neutrinos. These nearly massless subatomic particles are among the most abundant particles in the universe, and constantly pass through ordinary matter.

By studying these particles, scientists hope to gain insight into some of the most violent astrophysical sources – such as supernovas, gamma-ray bursts, merging black holes, neutron stars, etc. The group of scientists charged with advising the US government on particle physics research is known as the Particle Physics Project Prioritization Committee (P5). In a recent draft report titled “Pathways for Innovation and Discovery in Particle Physics,” the P5 team recommended a planned expansion of IceCube. This recommendation is one of several that define the future of astrophysics and particle physics research.

The report also recommends support for a separate neutrino experiment based in Illinois called the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, along with multiple projects at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory, the Cherenkov Telescope Array, and the development of Next Generation Earth. Telescopes based on observing the cosmic microwave background (CMB). P5 advisors include two UW-Madison faculty members, Tulika Bose and Kyle Cranmer, and UW-Madison physicists also hold leadership roles in the projects mentioned above.

A view of the IceCube laboratory with a starry night sky showing the Milky Way and green aurora. Image credit: Yuya Makino, IceCube/NSF

Bose is an experimental particle physicist working on the Compact Muon Solenoid Experiment at the LHC. Her research focuses on the search for exotic particles, dark matter, and Standard Model measurements. Cranmer’s research similarly focuses on the search for exotic particles and physics outside the Standard Model, which included the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. The two, along with their P5 colleagues, spent much of the past year assessing the future of particle physics and recommending projects that would help advance the field.

One of the P5 committee’s main concerns is how the federal government can maximize the limited funding it allocates to particle physics research over the next decade. This is one of the main reasons for the recommended IceCube expansion, which is colloquially called ICECube-Gen2. As they point out in their report, upgrading the existing observatory would be a relatively cost-effective way to improve the scientific community’s ability to detect and analyze neutrinos:

“IceCube-Gen2 also has a strong science case in multi-messenger astrophysics combined with gravitational wave observatories… The South Pole, a unique location that enables the world-leading science of CMB-S4 and IceCube-Gen2, should be preserved as a key location.” Science to allow continued American leadership in these areas.

“Using new technology and taking advantage of the exquisite ice that we can model with higher resolution than ever before, IceCube-Gen2 can expand the detection volume by a factor of eight at a cost comparable to IceCube,” said Albrecht Karl, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The professor leading the IceCube upgrade said in a UW-M press release.

In addition to supporting the expansion of IceCube and other key experiments, the committee recommended an improved balance of funding between projects of all sizes, a more robust research and development program that could lead to the next generation of particle accelerators, and expanding the nation’s high-tech workforce. . Bose noted that she is particularly excited about the prospect of a new particle accelerator, which will likely be located in the United States. “I am excited about the bold, long-term vision presented in the P5 report,” she said. “Such a collider would be an unparalleled global facility that would provide new insights into the mysteries of our quantum world.”

The P5 panel’s recommendations are now being reviewed by the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel (HEPAP), part of the US Department of Energy (DoE), which is scheduled to meet on December 8 to discuss the recommendations. An online version of the P5 report can be found here on the Department of Energy website, and a two-page summary can be found on the HEPAP website here.

Further reading: University of Wisconsin-Madison

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