Indiana University is collaborating on an experiment designed to answer some of the most fundamental questions in physics.
The project broke ground last week in South Dakota. Crews will dig more than a mile underground to build caverns designed to store equipment that will detect neutrinos, a type of subatomic particle.
Stuart Mufson, an Indiana University astronomy professor, says neutrinos hold the key to understanding why matter — why anything — exists at all.
“Neutrinos are giving us insight into things we just really don’t understand now,” says Mufson. “They’re giving us insight into the way matter is put together and forces work.”
Neutrinos are also emitted when massive stars die, or go supernova. Because neutrinos get a “head start” when the star explodes, scientists can use neutrino detectors to see supernovas before their light reaches earth.
“I have been waiting since 1987 to see supernova neutrinos,” Mufson says.
Indiana University is developing some of the technology for the experiment, which involves collaboration among over 160 institutions and 30 countries. Data collection is scheduled to start in 2025.