Aeronomy & Astrophysics

Dr. Vladimir Papitashvili
Program Manager


NSF/OPP Award 03-38219
Station: South Pole Station
RPSC POC: Charles Kaminski
Research Site(s): MAPO
Dates in Antarctica: Maintenance in December, instruments operate continuously

RICE - Radio Ice Cherenkov Experiment
Dr. Dave Besson
University of Kansas Lawrence
Physics Department
Geometry of radio detection.
Deploying Team Members: Dave Besson . Ilya V. Kravchenko
Research Objectives: Cosmic rays have historically been the source of much of our information about the extraterrestrial world. It is believed that among the most energetic cosmic rays are those which may be produced by massive black holes which could exist at the centers of some galaxies. These celestial accelerators, achieving energies 10E9 times higher than those made by humans, can produce protons, photons, and neutrinos. At the highest energies only the neutrino can elude the cosmic microwave background and penetrate, undeflected by magnetic fields, to Earth and yield a wealth of science when detected: Neutrinos may also resolve the question of the origin of greater than 10E19 eV (electron volt) cosmic rays observed by the AGASA (Akeno Giant Air Shower Array) experiment. As exciting as all of these opportunities are, perhaps the greatest intellectual merit of constructing a neutrino detector lies in the mysteries yet-to-be-discovered with a new technology operating in a new energy regime.

This project is a new experimental effort to detect ultra high-energy electron neutrinos through their interactions with ice molecules in the antarctic icecap, based on the principle of "radio coherence." Experimentally, project team members will measure a long-wavelength (radiofrequency) pulse resulting from this interaction.

RICE (‘Radio Ice Cherenkov Experiment’) has primary goals similar to the larger AMANDA (Bob Morse, A-130-S) experiment. Both seek to measure high-energy neutrinos by detection of Cherenkov radiation. Whereas AMANDA uses optical-based techniques, RICE uses radio-based techniques to detect compact electromagnetic cascades initiated by higher energy events.

The IceCube project (Halzen, A-333-S) presents a singular and not-to-be-repeated scientific opportunity to co-deploy radio receivers in IceCube holes, thereby scaling up RICE sensitivity to neutrinos by at least two orders of magnitude at minimal cost. By deploying three radio receiver “clusters” (two dual-polarization, high bandwidth antennas per cluster) per hole, researchers will also conduct world-class, in situ radioglaciology measurements, in addition to astrophysics.

RICE data from the last four years have allowed the most detailed study of in situ radio detection systematics thus far. RICE has demonstrated the radio technique’s viability, as well as its cost effectiveness. RICE has been an extremely successful vehicle for education both inside and outside the classroom. All of the RICE data and the reconstruction software is publicly accessible on the Internet.