Russian scientists have launched one of the world’s biggest underwater neutrino telescopes called the Baikal-GVD (Gigaton Volume Detector) in the waters of Lake Baikail, the world’s deepest lake situated in Siberia.
Q Where is located and what is significance of location?
Lake Baikal is a rift lake located in southern Siberia, Russia, between Irkutsk Oblast to the northwest and the Buryat Republic to the southeast.
It is the largest freshwater lake by volume in the world, containing 22 to 23% of the world’s fresh surface water.
With a maximum depth of 1,642 m it is the world’s deepest lake.
It is among the world’s clearest lakes and is the world’s oldest lake, at 25–30 million years. It is the seventh-largest lake in the world by surface area.
Lake Baikal formed as an ancient rift valley and has a long, crescent shape, with a surface area of 31,722 km2 (12,248 sq mi), slightly larger than Belgium.
The region to the east of Lake Baikal is referred to as Transbaikalia or as the Transbaikal and the loosely defined region around the lake itself is sometimes known as Baikalia.
UNESCO declared Lake Baikal a World Heritage Site in 1996.
Q What is significance of Baikal GVD?
The Baikal-GVD is one of the three largest neutrino detectors in the world along with the IceCube at the South Pole and ANTARES in the Mediterranean Sea.
The construction of this telescope, which started in 2016, is motivated by the mission to study in detail the elusive fundamental particles called neutrinos and to possibly determine their sources.
It will help understanding the origins of the universe since some neutrinos were formed during the Big Bang while others continue to be formed as a result of supernova explosions or because of nuclear reactions in the Sun.
An underwater telescope such as the GVD is designed to detect high-energy neutrinos that may have come from the Earth’s core, or could have been produced during nuclear reactions in the Sun.
Q What are fundamental particles?
So far, the understanding is that the universe is made of some fundamental particles that are indivisible.
Broadly, particles of matter that scientists know about as of now can be classified into quarks and leptons.
Explorations has led to the discovery of over 12 such quarks and leptons, but three of these (protons, neutrons and electrons) is what everything in the world is made up of.
Protons (carry a positive charge) and neutrons (no charge) are types of quarks, whereas electrons (carry a negative charge) are types of leptons.
These three particles make what is referred to as the building block of life the atom.
Q Why do scientists study fundamental particles?
Studying what humans and everything around them is made up of gives scientists a window into understanding the universe a better way.
This is one reason why scientists are so keen on studying neutrinos (not the same as neutrons), which are also a type of fundamental particle.
Fundamental means that neutrinos, like electrons, protons and neutrons cannot be broken down further into smaller particles.
Q So where do neutrinos fit in?
What makes neutrinos especially interesting is that they are abundant in nature, with about a thousand trillion of them passing through a human body every second.
In fact, they are the second most abundant particles, after photons, which are particles of light.
But while neutrinos are abundant, they are not easy to catch, this is because they do not carry a charge, as a result of which they do not interact with matter.
One way of detecting neutrinos is in water or ice, where neutrinos leave a flash of light or a line of bubbles when they interact.
To capture these signs, scientists have to build large detectors.