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Inventing a New Astronomy at the South Pole


“Bert” and “Ernie”

The first very high-energy neutrino detected by IceCube. “Bert” was detected in August 2011 and deposited 1.04 PeV (petaelectronvolts) of energy into the ice. It was the highest-energy neutrino that had ever been observed at the time.

The size of the blobs symbolize the amount of light that hit each light detector in the IceCube array, and their color indicates when the light hit each detector (red is early, yellow to green is late).

Keep in mind that the detector is one kilometer high and one kilometer wide, so Bert (and Ernie, below) would have more than filled a professional football stadium. The timescale is also stretched out: the duration of these events was only about two millionths of a second.


Ernie, which met its demise in January 2012, was even more energetic than Bert: 1.14 PeV.

IceCube has detected even more energetic neutrinos in the meantime, but Bert and Ernie are historic, because they were the very first. And although, for esoteric reasons, the IceCube scientist could not claim that they came from beyond our atmosphere, in other words, that they were "extra-terrestrial," the odds are that they were, so that Bert and Ernie signaled the birth of a new astronomy.

More details on Bert and Ernie at​/1304.5356