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Thursday, 30 January, 2003, 12:47 GMT
Clues to origins of Universe
 (Photo: The University of Wisconsin)
The telescope is 1.5 km beneath the ice
A South Pole telescope promises new insights into violent events at the heart of the Universe.

Scientists say it can trail particles given off by colliding black holes, exploded stars and the cores of distant galaxies.

We now have a powerful new tool to scan the heavens

Steven Barwick, physicist
These energetic events emit invisible, uncharged, nearly mass-less, sub-atomic particles, called high-energy neutrinos.

The Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array (Amanda) telescope can track the elusive particles back to their source, scientists have confirmed.

Violent events

It is exciting news for astrophysicists, who now have a new tool for studying the origins of black holes, stars and other objects in the Universe.

Steven Barwick, a physicist at the University of California, Irvine, US, said: "We now have a powerful new tool to scan the heavens.

"This marks a significant breakthrough in the field of high-energy neutrino astronomy.

"Amanda does what it is designed to do. Of all the high-energy particles emitted from the violent, energetic events in the Universe, only neutrinos can directly provide information on these activities."

Upside down

The telescope is unusual in that it is buried underneath the Antarctic ice, pointing into the ground.

High-energy neutrinos from the distant Universe pass straight through the Earth and out the other side while other forms of radiation are filtered out.

An international team of physicists and astronomers used the telescope to explore an uncharted region of sky.

They calculated that it was powerful enough to measure the direction of neutrinos within 3.5 degrees.

This is accurate enough to reveal sources of high-energy neutrinos in the distant Universe.

'Neutrino light'

The research underlines the growing connections between particle physics and astronomy, said Prof Ken Peach of the CLRC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, UK.

"Neutrinos have very special properties that make them able to see directly into regions that are otherwise only accessible indirectly," he told BBC News Online, "shedding what might be called 'neutrino light' on some of the most challenging astrophysical objects".

The research is to be published in February's Astrophysical Journal.

See also:

05 Sep 02|Science/Nature
06 Nov 02|Science/Nature
08 Oct 02|Science/Nature
30 Oct 02|Science/Nature
18 Sep 02|Science/Nature
22 Apr 02|Science/Nature
14 Mar 00|Science/Nature
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