Floating telescope hunts ‘ghost particles’

Scientists have installed one of the world’s largest underwater telescopes to observe the universe from the pristine waters of Lake Baikal.

The team of experts monitors the installation of telescopes in Lake Baikal. Picture: AFP.

Named Baikal-GVD, the telescope is located at a depth of 750-13,000 m, about 4 km from the shore of the lake. The instrument, built in 2015, is used to observe neutrinos. Neutrinos are known as “phantom particles” because of their ability to pass through solid objects easily. Neutrinos interact very weakly with matter. A neutrino can travel a distance of one light-year (10 trillion kilometers) in lead metal without colliding with any atoms.

Neutrinos are difficult to detect, and water is an effective medium for observing this type of particle. The floating observatory consists of several chains with many glass spheres and stainless steel modules.

On March 13, scientists watched the process of lowering the module into frigid waters through a rectangular hole in the ice. The neutrino telescope has a volume of 0.5 km3, according to Dmitry Naumov, a scientist at the Cooperative Institute for Atomic Research. Over the next few years, the telescope will expand to 1 km3.

The telescope in Lake Baikal will compete with the Ice Cube, the giant neutrino observatory beneath the Antarctic ice at a US research station. Russian scientists say it is the largest neutrino detector in the Northern Hemisphere, and Lake Baikal, the world’s largest freshwater lake, is an ideal location for floating telescopes.

“Of course, Baikal is the only lake that can deploy neutrino telescopes due to the depth of the lake,” said Bair Shoibonov, a scientist at the Institute for Cooperation in Nuclear Research. “Fresh water is also important. In fact, the lake has been covered in ice for months at a time.”

The Baikal-GVD telescope project is a collaboration between scientists from the Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, Russia and Slovakia.

An Khang (According to Phys.org)

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