IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory

Project Description
Short Title: IceCube
Project URL: http://icecube.wisc.edu/
Proposal URL: http://classic.ipy.org/development/eoi/proposal-details.php?id=459

IceCube is a one-cubic-kilometer international high-energy neutrino observatory being installed in the ice below the South Pole Station. A companion cosmic ray surface air shower array, IceTop, will complement the detection of high energy astrophysical neutrinos and support IceCube by identifying background events. The IceCube detector will consist of approximately 80 strings of 60 digital optical modules deployed at depths between 1400 and 2400 meters. The IceTop detector will have a pair of frozen water tanks at the ice surface above each IceCube string. Each tank will have two digital optical modules to monitor cosmic ray events. The digital optical modules detect the light produced when charged particles pass through the ice, enabling the IceCube detector to track particles produced by neutrinos and IceTop to reconstruct cosmic ray events. Deployment of the first strings and surface IceTop tanks is underway now and will continue until the detector is completed in the 2009-2010 season.

IceCube will open unexplored bands for astronomy, including the PeV (1015 eV) energy region, where the Universe is opaque to high energy gamma rays originating from beyond the edge of our own galaxy, and where cosmic rays do not carry directional information because of their deflection by magnetic fields. The instrument may, for example, answer the question of whether the fascinating multi-TeV photons originating in the Crab supernova remnant and near the supermassive black holes of active galaxies are of hadronic or electromagnetic origin. IceCube will provide a totally novel viewpoint on the multi-messenger astronomy of gamma ray bursts, which have been identified as a possible source of the highest energy particles in nature.

IceCube also occupies a unique place in the multi-prong attack on the particle nature of dark matter, with unmatched sensitivity to cold dark matter particles approaching TeV masses. As a particle physics experiment with the capability to detect neutrinos with energies far beyond those produced at accelerators, IceCube will join the race to discover supersymmetric particles and the topological defects created in grand unified phase transitions in the early universe. The detection of cosmic neutrino beams would open the opportunity to study neutrino oscillations over Megaparsec baselines.

These exciting capabilities notwithstanding, there should be no doubt the true potential of IceCube is discovery. History has not previously disappointed us: the opening of each new astronomical window has led to unexpected discoveries. Hidden particle accelerators may, for instance, exist from which only the neutrinos escape.