A bright, sunshiny day for ICARUS

Steve Brice

After many months of planning, preparation and proofs of promising performance, the ICARUS neutrino detector, which CERN has been refurbishing for Fermilab’s Short-Baseline Neutrino Program, is making its way across the Atlantic Ocean.

And we have an exciting announcement: Because of ICARUS’ soaring achievements in tests, the Fermilab Physics Advisory Committee has recommended it be used not only to look for sterile neutrinos as planned, but also for solar neutrinos. So we’re renting a rocket to send the ICARUS detector 1.5 million kilometers above Earth’s surface to better understand both neutrinos and the workings of the sun.

We’re sending ICARUS just shy of L1, a gravitationally stable sweet spot between the sun and Earth. It’s the closest to the sun any neutrino detector will ever have been.

Once the detector is released at the drop point, it’ll take its data, then succumb to Earth’s gravity. The moving company Emmert will take care of the rest of ICARUS’ trip to the lab.

The scheme is foolproof, thanks to ICARUS’ superiority.

And the neat thing is that, ICARUS is so good, we didn’t really have to make any modifications to it for its solar flyby. We slathered some SPF 50 on the detector, and the results surpassed our expectations. We conducted similarly reliable tests of its ability to withstand its high-velocity ascent and descent, its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, the varying temperatures it will encounter in its flight, and so on. Researchers glowed with pride when they presented those results, so we predict that the high-flying detector will be exceedingly successful.

We should note that scientists on DAEDALUS, a neutrino experiment at Columbia University, reviewed our plans and gently warned ICARUS against taking this path. But the two experiments hashed it out, and while they don’t see eye to eye, they’re still great admirers of each other’s work.

And so we predict the test will pass with flying colors. And to ensure it, we attached to the detector the ICARUS PRISM (Prodigious Rise, Icarus’ Stardom Matchless), which will separate the sunlight into a rainbow of colors.

Watch this space for what will likely be a flying leap in our understanding of solar neutrinos and how to detect them. Welcome to the solar frontier.

Steve Brice is head of the Fermilab Neutrino Division.