A deep sea observatory will be built in the Mediterranean Sea that will help detect elusive particles known as neutrinos and aims to reveal new details about supernovas and the Big Bang.
Funded by the European Union, the £210 million Multi-Cubic Kilometre Neutrino Telescope, or KM3NeT, will be constructed two miles beneath the surface of the Mediterranean sea.
The consortium says the KM3NeT will "open a new window on the universe," as its several cubic kilometer observatory detects high-energy neutrinos from violent sources in outer space such as gamma-ray bursts, colliding stars and supernovae.
With the KM3NeT, scientists will given an opportunity to look for high-energy neutrinos from the center of the galaxy, where a supermassive black hole is thought to exist.
Scrutiny of neutrinos from the galactic center by KM3NeT may assist with the identification of dark matter, a mysterious material that does not emit any light but is thought to make up more than 83 per cent of the universe, for the first time.
Scientists hope that with the new telescope, they will be able to pick up traces of neutrinos as they bombard the Earth from outer space and use them to study the universe further. A property of neutrinos that makes their observation compelling to physicists is their lack of charge, which makes them immune to electromagnetic forces. Neutrinos are therefore ideal for observing the universe at very great distances.
Neutrinos are electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particles that are thought to emanate from the remnants of exploding stars known as supernovas, or from supermassive black holes.
"Much of what we know about the universe to date has been gleaned from looking at different frequencies within the electromagnetic spectrum such as visible light and X-rays. Using neutrinos to probe the universe is a completely new and fresh idea, so it is going to give us an entirely new perspective," said Dr. Lee Thompson, who is part of the KM3NeT project.
Neutrinos, which travel close to the speed of light, interact very little with other particles, but according to researchers, occasionally they collide with atoms. By building the telescope under water, which is denser than air, the chance of a neutrino colliding with atoms in the seawater will increase.
"At first glance it seems a strange thing to do - build a telescope under water that looks down rather than up, but it is going to change our view of the universe," Thompson said.
According to reports, in addition to the neutrino observatory, KM3NeT will house equipment for monitoring the deep-sea environment, including the recording of whale songs and the observation of bioluminescent organisms.
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