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Into the Abyss: a Journey Inside the SNO+ Detector

March 17, 2011

Sometimes the life of a research assistant means putting together cardboard boxes for a month. Other times it means checking out the depths of a multi-million dollar experiment.

The SNO+ detector studies neutrinos, tiny particles created deep inside the nuclear fires of the Sun. In fact, every second you are hit by about a million billion neutrinos and you don’t feel a thing. Even the tiniest indication of their existence require experiments housed deep underground. The SNO+ experiment is located approximately 2 kilometres underground in an active mine. The heart of the SNO+ detector will be a 12 m diameter acrylic sphere fill with approximately 800 tonnes of liquid scintillator which will float in a water bath. This volume will be monitored by about 10,000 photomultiplier tubes (PMTs), which are very sensitive light detectors.

SNO+ is currently under construction so the acrylic vessel and surrounding cavity is filled with air. This week I had the rare opportunity to go into the cavity and see the detector from the bottom as well as go inside the acrylic vessel. It was absolutely amazing!


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