Neutrinos, Antarctica, and People

Another highlight from the Moriond conference: Abby Veiregg gave a presentation on the ANITA experiment. ANITA is basically a set of radio antennas put on a balloon that circles the Antarctic for several weeks at a time.  The experiment is looking for evidence of extremely high-energy cosmic ray neutrinos. When these high-energy neutrinos graze the Antarctic ice, they are traveling faster than light can travel in the ice, which produces the analogue of the shock wave a supersonic aircraft makes. This electromagnetic shock wave, called Cherenkov radiation, includes some radio waves that can be detected by ANITA. Unfortunately this round of the experiment was not sensitive enough to see any neutrinos; an upgraded version is currently being built. One of the reasons that the experimentalists had a difficult time is that there was a lot of radio wave background from human sources. Apparently there are scientists all over Antarctica!

Radio waves detected by the ANITA experiment provide a "heat" map of Antarctica.

Radio waves detected by the ANITA experiment provide a "heat" map of Antarctica.

The dark blue region is the area scanned by ANITA, the other colored areas represent places where radio waves were found.

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