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'Average a Westerner can swim in lake Baikal is 1,5 minutes'
Marc Di Duca

Secrets of the universe to be sought from deep under Lake Baikal

By Anna Liesowska
23 May 2015

Powerful telescope placed 1.3km below the icy water hopes to track invisible particles from the sun and stars.

Scientists launched the first stage of a pioneering project to capture particles from the likes of gamma-ray bursts from the sun, exploding stars and black holes. Picture: Baikal neutrino project

A high-tech telescope has been placed under the ice at Lake Baikal to begin research that could help determine the origins of the universe.

Scientists launched the first stage of a pioneering project to capture particles from the likes of gamma-ray bursts from the sun, exploding stars and black holes.

Located 1.3km under the surface, the Dubna telescope will use 192 optical modules to record the invisible neutrinos from space as they interact with the Baikal water and generate a cascade of charged particles that give out a special glow called Cherenkov's Light.

It is hoped the data can help unravel the secrets of stars and establish the origin and properties of high-energy cosmic rays, as well as get new information about the structure and evolution of the universe.

Valery Rubakov, head of the Section of Nuclear Physics, of the Physical Sciences Division of the Russian Academy of Science, said: 'The neutrino is so unique because it is a carrier of information about the processes occurring in the universe, and its interaction with matter is very weak.

'The natural flow of the neutrino carries rich and unique information about the world around us.

'The study of this flow can give a key to understanding the early stages of the evolution of the universe, the processes of the formation of the chemical elements, the mechanism of evolution of massive stars and supernova explosions, and shed light on the problem of the dark matter, as well as the composition and internal structure of the Sun today and in a fairly remote past.

Baikal neutrino telescope


Baikal neutrino telescope

Camp on the ice. Scientists near the centre of the cluster prepared for the installation. Pictures: Baikal neutrino project

'It can also give us an even deeper insight into the problem of the internal structure of one of the most difficult to study objects - planet Earth.'

The warm winter almost prevented the installation of the telescope, because the process required thick enough ice on the surface of Lake Baikal. Work finally started in March, but it was only reported this week by Russian officials.

In simple terms, the telescope is designed to study the natural flow of high-energy neutrinos, near-massless subatomic particles.

Neutrinos almost uniquely do not interact with any other particles, are not affected by electromagnetic fields and can pass through almost every object, even the Earth. Most that reach Earth come from the sun or from stars, or are caused by violent astrophysical events such as exploding stars.

Baikal neutrino telescope


Baikal neutrino telescope

Dubna telescope will use 192 optical modules gatheres in 8 garlands. Pictures: Baikal neutrino project

Similar powerful telescopes already exist in Antarctica and in the Mediterranean, having been developed using technologies dating back to the days of Soviet scientists.

The sensitivity of the Russian telescope means it can compete with the best in the world – the facility in Antarctica called IceCube – but scientists hope to expand its scope by 2020.

The Dubna telescope at Baikal was constructed as a result of a collaboration between the Institute for Nuclear Research in Moscow, the, Kurchatov Institute, the German research centre DESY, Irkutsk and Nizhni Novgorod State University, and the St Petersburg State Marine Technical University.

But the very idea of neutrino detectors actually dates back to the 1960s and was first developed by Soviet scientists and then perfected in Russia.

Baikal neutrino telescope


Baikal neutrino telescope

The warm winter almost prevented the installation of the telescope, because the process required thick enough ice on the surface of Lake Baikal. Work finally started in March. Picture: Baikal neutrino project

It was the Soviet scientist Moisey Markov who first came up with the idea of observing elementary particles, using large scale detectors in natural transparent substances, such as water and ice.

At the time, Baikal – the world’s largest and deepest freshwater lake – was chosen to test the location of such a futuristic invention, due to the clarity of the water. Its depth and the presence of ice was also important in allowing the installation of the equipment in winter.

The first neutrino experiment took place on October 1, 1980, with the very first telescope deployed there between 1993 and 1998. The NT200 contained 192 photodetectors, grouped into eight vertical garlands placed at a depth of about 1.2km and covering 100,000 cubic meters of fresh water.

Grigory Domogatsky, coordinator of the Baikal neutrino project, said: 'The successful work of the neutrino telescope NT200 and the results we have got on it have proved the effectiveness of the method of deep-sea neutrino detection in the fresh water of Lake Baikal.'

Baikal neutrino telescope

The final ritual. Everyone has to hold the last rope connecting the cluster with the ice surface and think if everything is done for the smooth operation of the cluster. Picture: Baikal neutrino project

German particle physicist Dr Christian Spiering, part of the IceCube South Pole Neutrino Observatory, welcomed the new telescope at Baikal as 'an important step'.

He said: 'Such a telescope will be a key setting of the future international neutrino observatory, which will include detectors at the South Pole, in the Mediterranean Sea and Lake Baikal.

'The IceCube detector has only slightly opened the veil of high energy neutrinos in the universe. In the future, the partners of the Global Neutrino Network project will make a complete map of this new Space territory.

'We are waiting for great scientific discoveries on Lake Baikal.'

Comments (7)

Hope this works. Knowing the secrets to the universe would be nice. I would like that very much.
Dr. Momin Khan, Toronto/Canada
28/01/2016 20:49
1
0
nice, thanks, If we want to fly to other galaxy, we must do extensive research on nutrino,
dr md faridul islam chowdhury, bogra, Bangladesh
19/07/2015 01:17
0
1
I think they are delving in for reasons perhaps more controversial...why now...why this lake, yes it is ancient but strange it coincides with large craters and ufos appearing in the area.
Nancy, Isle of Man
28/05/2015 06:46
6
0
Go with the flow... ¨The study of the neutrinos flow can give a key to understanding the early stages of the evolution of the universe¨The Berliner Inc. neutrino-energy.com, german & american physicians published even in autumn 2014 about there neutrino projects in the german press.The former russian president, M. Gorbatschow, has the patronage for that company. The similarity of all neutrino projects on earth in this time periode is amazing...
Sara Musinowski, Germany
27/05/2015 13:07
0
0
Fascinating article and really good photographs. I am sure you will have follow up to this.
Steven Lang, Grahamstown, South Africa
26/05/2015 19:50
1
0
I've always felt it only a matter of time that this sublime lake will reveal answers to our existence...like a beautiful majestic pond in the universe...but let us hope it is always treated with respect and the sometimes unapologetic curiosity of science does not taint.
Carmen, Ireland
25/05/2015 05:30
7
1
This is very interesting and amazing that we can collect data this way.
bob petermann, Elk River, MN USA
25/05/2015 04:55
1
0
1

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