UW-Madison: Feds renew big Icecube Observatory contract with UW-Madison

CONTACT: Francis Halzen, (608) 262-2667, [email protected]

MADISON – The National Science Foundation today announced that it has renewed a cooperative agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Madison to operate IceCube, a massive neutrino telescope buried deep in the ice beneath the South Pole.

The five-year, $35 million cooperative agreement calls for the continued operation and management of the observatory located at NSF’s Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. In 2013, the IceCube scientific collaboration reported the first detection of high energy cosmic neutrinos, opening a new astronomical vista to the universe and some of its most violent phenomena.

Since its inception 15 years ago, IceCube – centered around a detector array consisting of 5,000 optical sensors frozen in the ice a mile beneath the South Pole – has been administered through UW-Madison, in recent years under the auspices of the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC).

“This is extremely good news,” says Francis Halzen, a UW-Madison professor of physics and the principal investigator for the project. “Over the years we have come to know what it takes to successfully operate the detector.”

Funding for IceCube comes from the Division of Polar Programs in NSF’s Geosciences Directorate and from the Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). Through the Division of Polar Programs, NSF manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, which supports researchers at universities throughout the country and provides infrastructure to support those researchers in the field.

“NSF is excited to support the science made possible by the IceCube Observatory because it’s at the cutting edge of discovery,” says Scott Borg, head of Polar Programs’ Antarctic sciences section. “But to make ambitious research of this kind a reality requires cooperation within the agency, which is why we’re delighted that IceCube is in partnership with MPS. It’s also science on a global scale, relying on strong international cooperation to be successful.”

IceCube was the first scientific instrument to detect ultra high-energy neutrinos from beyond our solar system, neutrinos packing a billion times more energy than the neutrinos observed in conjunction with the 1987 supernova observed in the Large Magellanic Cloud. Recent reports from the IceCube collaboration have confirmed the observatory’s detection of high energy neutrinos from beyond our galaxy, so-called cosmic neutrinos.