Three scientists from CSIC-Universitat de València and Universitat de Barcelona use data from the IceCube detectors in Antarctica to measure Earth's mass. In his paper published in the journal Physics of nature, Andrea Donini, Sergio Palomares-Ruiz, and Jordi Salvado describe data describing the neutrinos that go through the Earth to learn more about the interior of the planet. Véronique Van Elewyck with the Paris Diderot University wrote a newspaper article on the work that the team carried out in the same issue of the journal.
Scientists now use calculations based on gravity pulling and readings from seismic detectors to measure Earth mass and its density. In this new effort, the researchers differed – considering the number of neutrinos traveling through the planet.
The IceCube Neutrino Observatory was created in 2005. It consists of thousands of sensors located under the ice to detect the neutrinos that have gone through the Earth. Neutrins are weak interaction particles – those that go through Earth are known as the atmospheric neutrons because they arise from the collision between cosmic air and Earth's atmosphere. In this new effort, researchers used IceCube data from 2011 to 2012 – it was not released until 2016. IceCube detects low-energy neutrons – high energy neutrons are not able to do it all the way to the planet.
To calculate the Earth's mass, the researchers measured the amount of neutrinos that were generated by atmospheric collisions across the planet. To calculate the density of Earth's layers, they calculated how much neutrinos could reach the planet under different angles of IceCube.
Researchers reported that their findings were agreed upon by planetary measurements taken over by traditional methods. But they also notice that as years pass, and IceCube collects more data, measuring neutrals will be more accurate. Van Elewyck suggests that since other neutrino stations are placed in other places, it would be feasible to conduct a full three-dimensional planet analysis that provides information that is not available by other means.
Possible explanation of excess electron neutrinos detected by IceCube Neutrino Observatory
Andrea Donini et al. Neutrino Tomography of Earth, Physics of nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038 / s41567-018-0319-1