cover image The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole

The Telescope in the Ice: Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole

Mark Bowen. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (448p) ISBN 978-1-137-28008-4

Bowen, a physicist and writer, immerses readers deep in Antarctic ice as he offers a mesmerizing look at a development in cutting-edge astrophysics with which few people are familiar: the South Pole’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory, the “weirdest” telescope in the world. Instead of gathering data from starlight, IceCube searches for neutrinos—electrically neutral, nearly massless particles that have fascinated and frustrated physicists since they were first proposed by Wolfgang Pauli in the 1930s. As Bowen explains, astrophysicists are interested in neutrinos because they come from places that regular telescopes never see: stellar interiors, supernovae, and the supermassive black holes at the center of galaxies. Bowen describes how IceCube hunts neutrinos with sensitive detectors sunk more than a mile deep in Antarctic ice. The detectors look “down” through the Earth, using it as a shield to block cosmic rays and in turn make evidence of neutrinos easier to identify in the ice. Bowen relates the story of IceCube with wry humor and enthusiasm, bringing to life the researchers, their rivalries, and their challenges, as well as the science. Infusing groundbreaking inquiry with the spirit of those who carry it out, Bowen delivers a tale that’s part educational, part inspirational, and all adventure. (Nov.)