Scientists Dunked a Giant Telescope into Russia's Lake Baikal

The telescope will seek to observe neutrinos from below the surface.
Fabienne Lang
The neutrino underwater telescope.Baikal GVD

On Saturday, March 13, scientists lowered one of the world's largest underwater neutrino telescopes into Russia's massive Lake Baikal.

The telescope, called Baikal-GVD (Gigaton Volume Detector), will look deep into our Universe, specifically neutrinos — some of the smallest and most abundant particles currently known — from the pristine waters of the lake.

Baikal-GVD is the Northern Hemisphere's largest deep underwater neutrino telescope, as the scientists say, and will rival Ice Cube, another telescope of its kind, which is located beneath Antarctica.

The Baikal-GVD team, which consists of scientists from Russia, Germany, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia, dug a rectangular hole in Baikal's frozen surface to lower the telescope down, and so began the telescope's mission.

Neutrinos, telescopes, and water

Telescopes observing neutrinos are placed in clear waters because this is the best medium for detecting these extremely hard to pinpoint particles.

On top of that, the fact that Lake Baikal is deep, and covered with thick ice for over two months of the year prove helpful for Baikal-GVD to better observe neutrinos, which is also why Ice Cube is placed beneath the frozen South Pole. 

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Baikal-GVD's first phase was completed in 2015, and comprised 192 optical modules. Now, the latest telescope has 288 optical modules. The plan is to increase the telescope's size to measure 35 cubic feet (1 cubic meter), Dmitry Naumov of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research told reporters.

The purpose of observing neutrinos with such telescopes is to better understand how our Universe came to be and evolved over time.

As Russia’s Minister of Science and Higher Education Valery Falkov, who was part of Saturday's launch, told reporters, per Russian news agency TASS "We expect that our colleagues will make their contribution, we will altogether understand the Universe, we will reveal its history, how galaxies were born."