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Free events and activities for all ages showcase IceCube research project

The community is invited to Extreme South Pole Science day focusing on the research being done with the IceCube telescope on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac, 400 University Dr., Fond du Lac.

Scientists and staff from UW-Madison’s Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, or WIPAC, will give a public talk at 12:30 p.m., offer hands-on activities for all ages 4-6 p.m., and show a movie on the South Pole-based IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a giant telescope built deep into the Antarctic ice, at 6 p.m. All events are free and the public is welcome.

IceCube is designed to observe traces of a mysterious particle that can tell us more about some of the most extreme events in the universe. The visit by WIPAC is part of a project that celebrates the Wisconsin connection to IceCube and gives back to the colleges and communities that made construction of IceCube possible. 

“We are excited to describe the incredible research going on at the South Pole and provide some hands-on activities that help explain what we are doing,” says Jim Madsen, the associate director for education and outreach at WIPAC and a physics professor at UW-River Falls. “We are looking forward to visiting Fond du Lac, where our partners have put together a great program for students and community members.”

The public lecture at 12:30 p.m. in the Prairie Theater will focus on how and why IceCube was constructed and the insights it gives into extreme phenomena like exploding stars and black holes.

From 4-6 p.m., WIPAC staff will provide hands-on activities in the LGI Room (UC-113/114). The activities planned incude the opportunity to replicate the drilling technique used at the South Pole, try on clothing worn by scientists working at the South Pole and take a photo in front of a special backdrop, see what the “eyes” of the IceCube telescope look like, learn about a cloud chamber, use programming commands to control LED modules and learn how IceCube scientists categorize the particles they “see.” 

The day concludes with the showing of “Chasing the Ghost Particle: From the South Pole to the Edge of the Universe,” a dynamic 30-minute film about IceCube, at 6 p.m. in the Prairie Theater. Watch the movie trailer!

As part of the visit to UW-Fond du Lac, WIPAC staff will also provide activities and show the “Ghost Particle” movie to elementary and middle school STEM students. In the afternoon, students in the UW-Fond du Lac Stars, Galaxies and the Universe (AST106) class taught by physics professor Carey Woodward will hear a special talk on neutrino astronomy.

“I have been following the progress of the IceCube project since its predecessor, AMANDA, was being developed at UW-Madison while I was a graduate student there,” said Woodward. “The astrophysical processes that IceCube is designed to study are straight out of my astronomy students’ textbook, and I am excited that they will have the opportunity to learn about this important research, and Wisconsin’s role in it, directly from the team that is making it possible.”

It took seven years and the efforts of an international collaboration of scientists to design, test, and build IceCube. The worldwide effort, stretching across the globe and into the heart of Antarctica, is rooted squarely in Wisconsin, with key partners at UW-Madison and suppliers from all over Wisconsin supporting the effort.

Funds for the statewide public education event are provided by the Ira and Ineva Reilly Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment and WIPAC. The National Science Foundation is the major funding agency for IceCube and operates the South Pole station.

For more information about the IceCube events at UW-Fond du Lac call (920) 929-1100.


Laurie Krasin