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Using neutrinos detected by IceCube to measure Earth's mass



Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A trio of researchers from the CSIC University of València and the Universitat de Barcelona used data from the IceCube detector in the Antarctic to measure Earth's mass. In their article published in the journal Nature Physics Andrea Donini, Sergio Palomares-Ruiz and Jordi Salvado describe data describing neutrinos going through the earth to learn more about the interior of the planet. Véronique Van Elewyck from Paris Diderot University has written an article about news and views about the work of the team in the same journal issue.

Scientists are currently using calculations based on the gravity's gravitational pull and readings from seismic detectors to measure Earth's mass and density. In this new effort, researchers have chosen a different approach ̵

1; the number of neutrinos moving through the planet.

The IceCube Neutrino Observatory was founded in 2005. It consists of thousands of sensors located under the ice to detect neutrinos that have passed through the Earth. Neutrinos are weakly interacting particles – those that go through the earth are called atmospheric neutrinos because they are created by collisions between cosmic rays and the Earth's atmosphere. In this new effort, the researchers used the data from IceCube from 2011 to 2012 – they were released in 2016. IceCube detects low-energy neutrinos – high-energy neutrinos can not make it over the entire planet.

To calculate the Earth's mass, the researchers measured how much of the neutrino current has passed through the planet through atmospheric shocks. To calculate the density of the earth layers, it was counted how many neutrinos could get through the planet at different angles to IceCube.

The researchers report that their results were consistent with measurements of the planet made using traditional methods. However, they also note that with the years when IceCube gathers more data, the planet's measurements using neutrinos become more accurate. Van Elewyck suggests that since other neutrino sensing stations are being built elsewhere, it should be possible to do a complete three-dimensional analysis of the planet providing information that is otherwise unavailable.


Explore Further:
Possible explanation for an excess of electron neutrinos detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory

Further information:
Andrea Donini et al. Neutrino Tomography of the Earth, Nature Physics (2018). DOI: 10.1038 / s41567-018-0319-1


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