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Year in review: Neutrinos leave tracks in ice

Scientists map particles’ birthplaces

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1:00pm, December 15, 2014
Neutrino tracks from IceCube experiment

TRACKING NEUTRINOS  The IceCube experiment has started to pinpoint the birthplaces of some high-energy neutrinos. The highest-energy neutrino ever recorded triggered flashes of light, illustrated here, that IceCube detected.

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In the dark depths of an Antarctic glacier, flashes of light triggered by wispy particles called neutrinos are providing rare clues about the universe’s most extreme environments. After discovering the first high-energy neutrinos from beyond the solar system late last year, researchers with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory spent 2014 tracing the particles’ origins to the locations of the mysterious violent objects that produced them.

“For the first time, I can point to an area in the sky and say there’s an ultrahigh-energy object there,” says IceCube astrophysicist Nathan Whitehorn of the University of California, Berkeley. The next step, he says, is using the neutrino data to identify those objects.

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