Skip to main content

100 years of discovery: Celebrating South Pole research

December 8, 2011

To mark the centennial of Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole, the IceCube Research Center is hosting an evening of exploration and learning on Tuesday, Dec. 13 from 6:30–8:30 at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery.

Photo: IceCube

A hose caries hot water to the top of an Antarctic drill tower as part of the IceCube project.

The theme of the event is “100 Years of Discovery from the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe.”

On Dec. 14, 1911, Norwegian Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.  One hundred years later, Antarctica is a continent dedicated to cutting-edge research. It houses some of the most innovative experiments in the world, including the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

IceCube is a cubic kilometer array of 5,160 detectors frozen in South Pole ice. Its mission is to identify and study the interactions of subatomic particles called neutrinos. IceCube searches for neutrinos that have their origins in some of the most energetic and catastrophic astronomical events known. Exploding stars, gamma-ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars are just a few sources for the neutrinos IceCube studies.

“Neutrinos and light are similar,” says Francis Halzen, IceCube Principal Investigator and UW–Madison Professor of Physics. “The only difference is that light doesn’t go through solid objects, whereas neutrinos go through everything. They travel in straight lines directly from their source, making them good intergalactic messengers.”

Halzen will give a presentation about IceCube science at the December 13th event. He will be joined by senior lecturer of Scandinavian Studies, Peggy Hager, who will discuss Norway’s tradition of exploration, and IceCube Associate Researcher, Mark Krasberg, who will talk about living and working at the South Pole today.

Visitors will have the opportunity to try on Antarctic clothing, take a photo with a sled dog and replica of an antique freight sled, explore the history of weather observations in the Antarctic, talk with geologists about volcanic rocks and vaporite crystals from Antarctica, sign a Bucky Badger flag that will go to the South Pole, and more.

“The event will showcase the benefits and difficulties of conducting research in such a harsh environment,” says James Yeck, IceCube Director. “The science enabled by the creation of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory is at the forefront of high-energy astrophysics. We hope to discover the very nature of some of the most violent events in the universe.”

The IceCube Research Center (IRC) at UW–Madison works together with the international IceCube Collaboration to operate and maintain the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole in Antarctica. The National Science Foundation and other international funding agencies support the project. Related IRC/UW–Madison Department of Physics projects include the High Altitude Water Cherenkov experiment, the Askaryan Radio Array, the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment, Dark Matter-Ice and the Pierre Auger Observatory.

Public parking is available in the Camp Randall Stadium ramp at 1525 Engineering Drive. Exhibits will be available in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, 330 N. Orchard St.,  open court from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. with presentations and a panel discussion in the forum beginning at 7:20 p.m. Hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar will be available. The event is free and open to the public.