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Students get a taste of astrophysics

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Dennis Hines | March 5, 2014

JANESVILLE -- Three Craig High School students recently had a big opportunity to get a jump start on their scientific careers by helping researchers study a tiny particle.
Seniors Matthew Plewa, Jacques Boudreau and Nolan Moran recently participated in an internship program at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center, located at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

As part of the program, they worked with researchers and other interns to use the center's IceCube technology to search the universe for neutrinos, which are subatomic particles that can develop from gamma ray bursts, black holes, neutron stars and exploding stars.

"Our goal is to map the neutrinos in the universe," Moran said. "They're really high energy, and they really don't have mass and they don't have their own charge, so they can travel through planets and everything without interacting."

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Plewa said about a billion neutrinos go through the human finger at one time.

"What's really interesting about the neutrinos that they're detecting is that they're generated at such high energy that they're being generated by something much larger than our galaxy," Plewa said. "They think some of them are coming from black holes, but some of them are being generated at such a high velocity that they're being generated by something even more powerful than what a black hole would be."

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