China is searching a mile below the ocean floor for the world’s most elusive particle

Chinese scientists are searching for signs of the world’s most elusive particles. The search has taken these scientists almost a mile beneath the ocean’s surface, where they hope to catch glimpses of these subatomic particles called neutrinos. 

Neutrinos are special particles that spend most of their time not interacting with the rest of the world around them. In fact, tens of thousands of neutrinos stream through our planet and our bodies every second, only occasionally interacting with other atoms. When those interactions happen, the world’s most elusive particles emit an early undetectable flash of light. 

It’s signs of these flashing lights that the Chinese scientists are hoping to glimpse by looking deep under the ocean. Scientists from the Chinese Academy of Sciences will build a new detector with over 55,000 sensors to detect them. The detector will be suspended roughly .6 miles (1 kilometer) under the ocean’s surface to hunt for the world’s most elusive particles, according to reports.

neutrinos are the world's most elusive particles
Neutrinos occasionally interact with atoms, creating small sparks of light that are almost undetectable. Image source: Ezume Images/Adobe

Scientists are building it so deep beneath the ocean because the rays from the Sun don’t travel that deep within the oceans. As such, it will be easier for the machine to differentiate between neutrinos that have come from beyond our solar system and those solar neutrinos emitted by our solar system’s star. If successful, the machine could give scientists a better way of studying the world’s most elusive particles. 

This isn’t the first neutrino detector scientists have ever built. Other detectors include the National Science Foundation’s IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica, which features over 5,000 sensors and detects the world’s most elusive particles thanks to the transparency of the ice surrounding the device. Russia is also building an underwater machine in Siberia’s Lake Baikal.

However, this new machine will be much larger, allowing for a better chance of detecting these subatomic particles. Learning more about the world’s most elusive particles could help scientists open new doors in the search for dark matter candidates. Even if it doesn’t, it will give us a better understanding of the very basic atomic particles that make up our universe, which can help us paint a fuller picture down the line. 

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