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  08-04-2003: ANTARES: A DETECTOR BELOW THE SEA 
 COMPLETE LIST 
Artistic image of the Antares detector
Artistic image of the Antares detector

© ANTARES - F. Montanet CPPM/IN2P3/CNRS-Univ. Mediterranee


© ANTARES - F. Montanet CPPM/IN2P3/CNRS-Univ. Mediterranee

The neutrino detector Antares, a pionieering submarine telescope developed with the collaboration of Infn researchers, is now in function

Antares, named after the omonimous big bright star, is a submarine telescope that studies stars and galaxies in a quest for neutrinos. It has just become operative a few days ago, in France, under the sea near Toulon. The Antares project is an international cooperation involving researchers of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (Infn) as well as scientists from England, France, Spain, Holland, Germany and Russia. The project aims both to demonstrate the feasibility of some innovative research projects in neutrino-astronomy, that is, astronomy carried out throught he observation of high-energy neutrinos, and to develop the necessary technology.

Antares, acronym for “Astronomy with a Neutrino telescope and Abyss environmental REsearch”, is a complex neutrino detector that is being built 50 km from the French coast, about 2400 m below sea level. The apparatus consists in a long submarine cable that connects the control room, set at ground level, to a net of 1000 underwater sensors. When it’s complete, in two to three years’ time, the net will spread over a 100.000 sq. m. surface, thus keeping under observation a volume of 35 million cubic meters of water. In the last few days the first 15 optical sensors, spheres 40 centimetres in diameter containing a light detector all the electronics necessary to make it work, have been connected to the submarine cable. “These first building blocks of the apparatus,” says Carlo De Marzo, the Italian physicist who coordinates the other 40 Infn researchers working at the project, “have already started to transmit data to the control room. At this point, transmitted data is useful especially to identify possible defects in the apparatus. When the instrument is complete, on the other hand, it will be able to determine experimentally whether the detectable flux of astrophysical neutrinos is consistent with the theoretical predictions.”

The heart of the Antares experiment is the system that allows to “see” neutrinos. Since these particles cannot be directly observed, secondary particles, called muons, which are produced by the interaction between neutrinos and the water closed in by the sensors, are detected instead. Muons move faster than light in water. Thus, due to a physical mechanism called Cerenkov effect, they leave a weak light trail behind them. That’s why the detector contained in each Antares sphere consists in a multiplier phototube that can detect the extremely feeble light generated by the interaction between neutrinos and matter. The spheres are transparent and connected through electro-optical cables, both among each other and to the control room on ground level. They are strung into long chains, or strings, of detectors, arranged into a fairly flat octagonal-base figure so they close in a large volume of water. Thanks to this geometry, and by analysing the transmitted data, it is possible to identify the trace left by muons, which is aligned to the one left by the neutrino that generated it.

The objective of Antares is to prove that it is possible to do neutrino astronomy, although in order to do actual research in this field a very much larger submarine apparatus would be necessary. A similar instrument doesn’t exist yet, but it should be built in Italy, off the coast of Sicily. An international collaboration will be put together for the project and led by the National Laboratories of the South of Infn. The instrument is the Nemo telescope, which could already be operative in 2010. It will be composed of a range of 64 “antennas” (vertical strings of detectors, each 700 metres long) that will enable researchers to monitor a volume of water totalling one cubic kilometre (one billion cubic metres, impressive compared to Antares’ 35 million). A test station of this revolutionary instrument already exists, 25 Km. At sea from the port of Catania, at a depth of about 2000 metres. The objective of the station is tp carry out tests on sensors and on the Nemo prototypes. It will also carry out multi-disciplinary studies in geophysics, oceanography, marine biology and other subjects. Nemo will only be able to observe neutrinos coming from the southern hemisphere, but it will be accompanied in its researches by a submarine American detector, which will cover the northern hemisphere. Of this detector, the Icecube telescope, only the first nucleus –Amanda- exists.

The scientific and technological fall-outs of the neutrino-astronomy carried out with submarine detectors are considerable. Almost all the informations we have concerning the Universe derive from the observation of the electromagnetic waves that come from external layers of celestial bodies, although almost no information reaches us from the interior. Neutrinos, on the other hand, have a very low probability of being absorbed by matter. Thus, they can reach the heart of sources undisturbed and clarify their structure and the way they function, whether they be neutron stars, black holes, active galactic nuclei or other objects of astrophysical interest, including the very centre of the Milky Way. Furthermore, placing the same instruments in underground laboratories would be prohibitively expensive. Therefore, detectors must be built in environments particularly well shielded from the background noise, such as the depths of the sea. This requires new technologies to be developed or the exixsting technologies to be improved. Instruments must be able to transmit great quantity of data through cables to the hardware and software that are needed for data management and analysis, starting from the robots that are used for the submarine layout and connection and ending in the systems for the remote control.


Photos and more information concerning Antares may be found on the website: http://antares.in2p3.fr/


 RELATED SITES 
http://antares.in2p3.fr/

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