A trio of researchers from CSIC-Universitat de València and Universitat de Barcelona used data from the Antarctic icecube probe to measure the mass of the Earth. In their paper published in the magazine Physics of Nature, Andrea Donini, Sergio Palomares-Ruiz and Jordi Salvado describe using data describing neutrinos that pass through the Earth to learn more about the interior of the planet. Véronique Van Elewyck with the Paris University Diderot has written a piece of news and projections for the group's work in the same magazine.
Today, scientists use calculations based on gravitational pull and seismic detector readings to measure Earth's mass and density. In this new effort, the researchers adopted a different approach-looking at the number of neutrinos that make their way through the planet.
The Neutrino IceCube Observatory was founded in 2005 and consists of thousands of sensors under the ice to detect neutrinos that have passed through the Earth. Neutrines are weakly interacting particles – those that pass through Earth are known as atmospheric neutrinos because they arise from collisions between cosmic rays and Earth's atmosphere. In this new effort, researchers used IceCube data from 2011 to 2012 – they were not released publicly until 2016. IceCube detects low-energy neutrinos – high-energy neutrinos are unable to do it all around the globe.
To calculate Earth's mass, the researchers measured how much of the neutrinos generated by atmospheric collisions made it through the planet. To estimate the density of the Earth's layers, they estimate how many neutrinos they were able to pass from the planet with different angles to the IceCube.
Researchers report that their findings were consistent with the measurements of the planet obtained by traditional methods. But they also note that as years pass and IceCube collects more data, the planet's neutrinos measurements will become more accurate. Van Elewyck points out that as other neutrinos detection stations are installed elsewhere, it should be possible to conduct a complete three-dimensional global analysis that will provide information that is not available by other means.
Possible explanation for the excess neutrino electron detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory
Andrea Donini et al. Earth's non-human tomography, Physics of Nature (2018). DOI: 10.1038 / s41567-018-0319-1