As summer starts up, many of us search the night sky for stars, constellations and evidence of the northern lights.
On Wednesday, July 24, and Thursday, July 25, the Northern Great Lakes Visitor Center in Ashland, will host a Wisconsin-based research center that explores the Universe in a new way from the end of Earth, with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole in Antarctica.
During the two-day visit to Ashland, staff and scientists from the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC) wipac.wisc.edu will provide free, interactive activities and scheduled presentations that focus on South Pole exploration.
“The science being done at the South Pole is amazing, and this is a great chance to provide something interesting for our visitors and local learners,” visitor center education specialist Susan Nelson said. “We also appreciate that this kind of opportunity to learn about science is coming to rural Wisconsin.”
On Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., children and adults will have the opportunity to try hands-on activities for all ages and interact directly with South Pole staff and physics researchers.
Visitors can try their hand at ice drilling with hot water, an experience that mimics the construction of IceCube, which was built into the ice; look into neutrino astronomy, discovering new ways to explore the cosmos; and try on extreme cold weather gear, the clothing issued for working in one of the harshest environments in the world.
On both days at 11 a.m., an hour-long presentation on South Pole science will focus on life at the South Pole, including travel to Antarctica, living at the station, and the construction of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.
Photos, videos, and the opportunity to interact with people who have been to the Pole make for an exciting event.
A special presentation at 2 p.m. on Wednesday titled “A New View of the Universe” is geared towards high school students and adults and will cover the basics of astrophysics, explaining why neutrinos-tiny, invisible particles-are used to explore some of the most exciting phenomena in the Universe, such as exploding stars.
“It’s cool to answer people’s questions and talk about what we do,” WIPAC graduate student Benedikt Riedel, who traveled to the Pole last winter, said. “Kids get really excited about the activities, especially ice drilling because it basically involves squirt guns full of water and a couple hundred pounds of ice.”
It took seven years and the efforts of an international collaboration of scientists to design, test, and build IceCube.
The worldwide effort, stretching across the globe and into the heart of Antarctica, is rooted squarely in Wisconsin with key partners at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and suppliers from all over Wisconsin supporting the effort.
To celebrate the Wisconsin connection and give back to the colleges and communities that supported IceCube, researchers are traveling around the state, providing engaging events for all age groups.
Funds for the statewide public education event are provided by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment and WIPAC.
The National Science Foundation is the major funding agency for IceCube and operates the South Pole station.
For more information about the upcoming events, visit www.universe.wisc.edu or the NGLVC at http://nglvc.org/