Friday, February 23, 2007

The core of the sun imaged by neutrinos

This is a picture of the sun as assembled from neutrinos detected in a 50,000 ton water tank located one kilometre underground in Japan. To build up the image took 503 days - days and nights really, as the equipment worked continuously. During the night, the neutrinos transited the entire earth before being registered in the detector

If this isn't a truly stunning picture, I can't image what would be. The full story here.

Looking at the image-resolution above and the 503 day 'exposure time', this is like observing the universe with a zeroth-generation digital camera - a few thousand pixels resolution and an aperture the size of a miniature pinhole. So much scope to improve.

I once had an SF idea about aliens with personal neutrino communicators: this would be completely undetectable with current terrestrial technologies. A little google research turned up "Neutrinos for Submarine Communications" (here). The paper ends with the following conclusion.

"Regardless of the seeming appeal of the concept, neutrinos as a means for communications appears impossible in practice. It would take nothing less than some type of a technological revolution to make it reality; until then, neutrino communications will remain the stuff of science fiction."

Still, this is a paper on open Internet distribution, so it's probably what they mean us to think :-).