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STELLAR CHEMISTRY
Antarctic search for cosmic rays is on
by Staff Writers
Madison, Wis. (UPI) Oct 18, 2010


disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

A "telescope" deep under Antarctica's ice has found the first signals scientists say may explain mysterious particles that shower the Earth from outer space.

Researchers, hoping to explain what produces cosmic rays and elusive particles called neutrinos that constantly bombard our planet, buried sensors a mile below the Antarctica's ice cap to detect fleeting flashes of light caused when these high energy particles and rays collide with atoms in the ice, The Daily Telegraph reported Monday.

The collisions are so rare only a few will be recorded each year, but the scientists say they have already detected collisions since the first sensors were buried in 2006, the British newspaper said.

The pattern of light recorded by the sensors allows scientists to plot the trajectory of the particles and rays to determine where in the galaxy they originated.

Although the last of its sensors won't be installed until December, researchers have already begun analyzing data from the $271 million IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

The data shows a concentration of cosmic rays coming from an area close to the constellation of Vela in the skies of the Southern Hemisphere, known to be an area of space emitting large amounts of radiation throughout the galaxy.

Scientists say when the observatory is finished they will be able to accurately identify the source of the stream of high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos.

Eventually the researchers on the project, being led by the University of Wisconsin, Madison, will bury more than 5,000 optical sensors deep in the ice, covering an area of about 1 cubic kilometer, about 0.2 cubic miles.

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