Meet Big Bird, highest-energy neutrino ever detected

This figure illustrates the detection of the record-setting high-energy neutrino named Big Bird. The red region represents the initial flash of light triggered by the neutrino. 

Jakob van Santen/IceCube

Guest post by Andrew Grant

SAVANNAH, Ga. — A speedy particle from beyond the solar system is the new record holder for the highest-energy neutrino ever detected, researchers from the IceCube experiment announced April 7 at a meeting of the American Physical Society.

Buried under an Antarctic glacier, IceCube consists of thousands of detectors looking for flashes of light triggered when neutrinos, particles that barely interact with anything as they cruise the cosmos, collide with the ice. Incorporating a year’s worth of new data, researchers announced that IceCube detected nine additional high-energy neutrinos for a total of 37.

One of the nine neutrinos struck the ice with a record 2 million billion electron volts of energy. Continuing the tradition of naming neutrinos after Muppets, the scientists named it Big Bird.

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