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Ice telescope uncovers mysteries of the universe

1 October 2014

Ice telescope uncovers mysteries of the universe

A University of Canterbury (UC) astroparticle physicist will explain how a telescope made from ice can help scientists search for high-energy particles from the cosmos at a public talk on Friday (3 October) at New Zealand’s premiere IceFest festival.

Associate Professor Jenni Adams has been part of the international IceCube project for 10 years, helping to detect tiny particles, called neutrinos, ejected from black holes in the universe that hurtle through to Earth.

The $460 million IceCube telescope, which is located in the ice between 1450 and 2450 metres below the surface at the South Pole, is the world's largest telescope. Instead of looking upwards to the light from the stars, the detector searches for neutrinos streaming through the Earth until a few of them collide with ice particles under the South Pole.

“IceCube is giving us a new way to study the mysteries of our universe, and it is likely to uncover or lead to the discovery of things we couldn’t have anticipated,” Professor Adams says.

Neutrinos are important to our understanding of the kind of processes that go on in the sun and also an important building block for the blueprint of nature.

Professor Adams says being part of the IceCube project, which involves 300 people from 44 institutions in 12 counties around the world, is exciting and she enjoys learning about how the universe works.

“It’s really exciting to be part of a project that is finding out how the highest energy objects in the universe work.

“When I was young I wanted to be an astronaut and discover things in space but as I grew up I realised it’s the scientists who discover stuff, not the astronauts,” she says.

Professor Adams is also presenting a TEDxChristchurch talk next month on the same topic. More information on this talk is at

Professor Adams, along with Professor Craig Rodger from Otago University, will be presenting Antarctic Ice Physics this Friday (3 October) from 2.30-3.30pm at the IceFest Hub. More information is available at

UC is an official partner of NZ IceFest, which highlights New Zealand’s leadership in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. This unique Christchurch festival focuses the world’s attention to the importance of the mysterious continent and its surrounds. Through creative and interactive experiences the Festival brings Antarctica to the general public, the Antarctic community and international visitors.

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