Enormous 1km ice-cube machine fashioned at South Pole

Boffins in magnificent Futurama style feat

Meet the rocket ski-plane and the ice drill as powerful as a locomotive

A US C-130 Hercules equipped with skis takes off in the Antarctic using JATO. Credit: DoD

Rocket ski-plane - a bit easier than dog sleds

Once at the Pole, the boffins needed to drill holes more than 2km down into the ice. This was done with a tool specially invented for the job: the Enhanced Hot Water Drill, developed in the physical-sciences labs of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The mighty ice drill, rated at no less than 4.8 megawatts (this is a drill as powerful as a railway locomotive) can bore through a kilometre of ice every day, so allowing the long sensor cables to be lowered into position.

As of December 18th, according to the NSF, the mighty Ice Cube was finally complete.

"IceCube is not only a magnificent observatory for fundamental astrophysical research, it is the kind of ambitious science that can only be attempted through the cooperation - the science diplomacy, if you will - of many nations working together in the finest traditions of Antarctic science toward a single goal," said Karl A Erb, director of NSF's Office of Polar Programs.

Sensor descends down a hole in the ice as part of the final season of IceCube. Credit: NSF/B Gudbjartsson

Down into the vast, transparent darkness

The Ice Cube was funded by the US, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. Barbados, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and the UK will also join in the IceCube Collaboration which will analyse the resulting data.

More accurately, one should say, they are analysing it and have been for some time: the Ice Cube actually went into operation well before being finished. The first data were produced in 2005.

"With the completion of IceCube, we are on our way to reaching a level of sensitivity that may allow us to see neutrinos from sources beyond the sun," says Francis Halzen, top boffin on the project.

There's more on the mighty Ice Cube here. ®

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