As you may know, the universe is made up of matter. One kind of matter’s existence is only hypothetical, it is known as ‘dark matter’ and cannot be seen or identified by using a telescope. However, there’s one exception to this: one kind of dark matter has been identified, the ‘neutrino’. Neutrinos are abundant, yet mysterious in nature. In order to study this interesting dark matter, a neutrino observatory known as Super-Kamiokande has been established near the city of Hida, Japan. In order to study this interesting dark matter, a neutrino observatory known as Super-Kamiokande has been established near the city of Hida, Japan.
The name neutrino comes from the fact that they are electrically neutral (as opposed to electrically charged like an electron). It is very hard to detect them even by a strong force, which is one of the reasons why they can typically pass through a measuring instrument without being detected. Because of this, the need for a neutrino detector was deemed important. Scientists have not only built a detector, but they have also found a way to bury the detector beneath the mountain where it can’t be reached by cosmic rays, so more accurate measurements can be carried out.
Super-Kamiokande was constructed in 1991, with observations having been conducted since 1996. It is hidden 1,000 meters beneath Mount Kamiokako and it consists of a stainless-steel tank filled with 50,000 tons of ultra-pure water. The tank wall has been installed with 13,000 photo-multipliers which can detect light that is produced when neutrinos act upon the surface of the water. This is actually a very rare occurrence, but when it happens, it emits a charged particle which is very fast.
The speedy particle creates a cone of light that is known as Cherenkov radiation. This is responsible for the blue glow below the surface of the water and is seen inside the detector which detects incoming neutrinos. The detector has been very helpful in so many discoveries and new theories in physics, such as providing evidence that the sun is a source of neutrinos, as well as the detection of neutrinos emitted by supernovas. This, in turn, is useful for humanity as we try to unravel the mystery of the universe, its origins and where it is headed. Super-Kamiokande is very helpful in providing information regarding the early universe and its matter.
We are unlikely to understand the world around us fully in the centuries to come, much less the whole universe and its secrets, but as long as we stay curious and try to understand the universe little by little we will get closer to unraveling the mystery of life in the end.
If you want to know more about Super-Kamiokande, you can click here for the official website.