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The Next Thing in Astronomy - Part IV - Seen from the Glacier

This article closes the review of the telescopes which, apparently, will change the face of the future and man's acquaintance with the world around him. In this article we will focus on the IceCube telescope which will explore the sky through the depths of the glaciers, discover distant planets and investigate the distortion of time around black holes

To see the hidden from a glacier

Sponsor: University of Wisconsin
Location: Buried in Antarctic ice
Cost: $ 272,000,000
Estimated completion: 2010

Near the South Pole Station Amundsen-Scott, technicians use a hot water jet with a power of five megawatts and use it to melt holes in the Arctic ice, at a depth of 2.4 km. Before the water has enough time to freeze back, they insert cables tied together, like lights on a Christmas tree, along with mounts for spherical cameras. When the technicians finish their work in 2010, IceCube's 80 vertical wires will be spread over a square kilometer of ice at depths between 1.4 and 2.4 km. In other words, it's a device that contains 4,800 cameras looking at completely dark ice. Ice Cube has the greatest potential to cause a revolution, because it intends to engage in an astronomical debate that has never been explored: cosmic neutrinos.
Neutrinos are not particles that like company, and the interaction they create with ordinary matter such as protons and neutrons as well as with atoms is so rare that scientists have only recently been able to discover them at all. The particles that the scientists were able to discover come from the sun and our atmosphere, which are the source of most of the neutrinos flying around us at any given moment. But there are neutrinos with more energy that come straight from bursts of gamma rays, from quasars, black holes and perhaps even from the annihilation of black matter, that mysterious and heavy substance that prevents the universe from disintegrating. IceCube will be the first "telescope" designed to study these cosmic neutrinos, a window into the high-energy universe.
One out of every million neutrinos passing through the ice, near the IceCube photomultiplier cameras, will hit an oxygen atom nucleus. The impact will release a particle called a muon which will move in the same direction as the neutrino. This muon will emit a trail of blue glow called Cherenkov light. Unlike the ice in the home refrigerator, the arctic ice is much more transparent, and the blue light will travel a distance of over 100 meters in the black ice. Each muon glow will be photographed by several cameras, which will calculate the neutrino's original direction up to the sky. Each camera carries a computer chip that connects it to the computers at the South Pole station. From here, the data will go to the research team located in their warm offices in North America.
Although IceCube is at the South Pole, it will make most of its neutrino measurements in the northern hemisphere. This is because most of the neutrons coming from the southern hemisphere will be noisy atmospheric neutrinos that tell us nothing about the distant sky. Ice Cube utilizes the Earth itself as a neutron shield that blocks atmospheric neutrons but allows high-energy neutrons to penetrate. Some of the neutrons that IceCube will collect will come from the center of a quasar, while every photon coming from a quasar originates only in the quasar's outer shell.
The great salvation - or at least the great salvation as we expect it - will be in the form of a window to the black matter. We know from observing the gravitational action of galaxies that the universe is full of invisible matter whose nature is unknown to us. Neutrinos may be created if and when some of that dark matter is destroyed in space. If so, IceCube should discover them, giving us the best picture yet of this mystery about that hidden stuff that fills the universe. IceCube makes his way into the unknown.
An earthly planet explorer

Distant planets are revealed

NASA has put an end to all indirect searches for extra-solar planets. TPF promises to provide images of Earth-sized planets orbiting our neighboring stars. A giant space telescope measuring 8 x 3.5 meters will use a special mask to prevent light from the host star from reaching the telescope's detectors and damaging them. TPF should find out if these stars contain water vapor, oxygen and ozone.

Estimated completion: 2016

Revealing the black holes

A fleet of four 1.6-meter-wide X-ray telescopes moving in orbit will study black matter and other mysterious things, but Constellation-X's real target is iron falling into supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. By combining the X-rays from the telescopes, the researchers will be able to perform a sensitive mapping of the space-time that warps alarmingly around black holes.

Estimated completion: 2017

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