Origins ANTARCTICA, Scientific Journeys from McMurdo to the Pole
People Ideas Tools Place Live Field Notes

Back to the Beginning
Looking for the elusive neutrino

"The hope is that the particle that is almost nothing will tell us almost everything about the universe."
-Francis Halzen, principal investigator of the AMANDA detector

The Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array, fondly known as AMANDA, was created to detect high-energy neutrinos. These hard-to-find particles may be very tiny, but they can tell us immense things about the creation of matter and the universe.

The detector consists of several strings of "optical modules," basketball-sized sensors that can pick up very small flashes of light. The strings hang almost two miles under the surface of the South Pole, and take advantage of the extraordinary clarity of the ice to capture light released when a high-energy neutrino hits it.

The strings are installed by an elaborate procedure that involves drilling a column, using hot water to melt the ice, and then quickly putting the sensors down the hole before it freezes up. There's no way to remove AMANDA's modules from the ice; it will stay there until the continent warms up and the ice sheet melts, millions of years from now.

Antarctic Dreams
A literary essay about AMANDA by Francis Halzen, the detector's chief physicist.

The Hunt for Neutrinos
How do you track a particle that leaves no footprints?

How does AMANDA work?
A video describing what happens inside the detector. In German, with an English transcript.

Other links about AMANDA:

Schematic of AMANDA's detector array

Animated gif of an AMANDA "event"
The rare, much sought-after occurrance of a high-energy neutrino hitting the optical modules.

Ice fishing for Neutrinos
Another essay by Francis Halzen, written in 1996.

  Inside Shackleton's hut
  Photo: Per Olof Hulth
  Antarctic Dreams: Inside AMANDA, in words and pictures.
Explorers from an early British expedition
  Photo: John Jacobsen
  Installing AMANDA in the hunt for neutrinos.
Origins Exploratorium ANTARCTICA


© Exploratorium