Going South: DESY ships last lot of IceCube modules

Assembly of an optical module. The electronics in the glass sphere immediately transforms the measured light pulse into digital data.

On 25 September, the final 184 digital optical modules produced at DESY for the IceCube detector were sent to Antarctica. Within five years, Zeuthen has built a total of 1200 light sensors. This German contribution makes up a quarter of the one-square-kilometre IceCube detector frozen deep in the ice.

Each one of these modules has been submitted extensive tests in a cooling chamber for two weeks, imitating Antarctic conditions with up to minus 45 degrees Celsius. The production had a failure rate of less than one percent.

The assembly of the sensors at the South Pole will take until 2011. Currently, half of the IceCube detector has been installed and is taking data successfully. In the Antarctic summer from November 2008 to February 2009, 16 more strings will be added to the existing 40 ones, each carrying 60 optical modules. Thus, IceCube – already the largest neutrino telescope in the world – will upgrade its sensitivity for signals from space year after year. The search for neutrino sources from cosmic objects hidden deep in the universe, for traces of dark matter or far-off supernovae is becoming more and more exciting.

Deployment of an IceCube module at the South Pole