DUNE’s strong showing at Neutrino Day

Once a year the Black Hills come alive with the sounds of science.

That annual occasion is Neutrino Day, a celebration of the many types of science that occur a mile below the surface in the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota. This year’s Neutrino Day drew a record 1,300 people, all of them intrigued by the fascinating research on display.

The Neutrino Day exhibit area. (See more pictures.) Photo:SURF

Neutrino Day is a celebration of the past, honoring Ray Davis and his legendary solar neutrino experiment conducted in the same underground tunnels where Sanford Lab now sits. But it is also about the future, as construction gets underway next month on the international Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility in those same tunnels.

DUNE collaborator Bonnie Fleming discussed how Ray Davis’s early neutrino discoveries continue to influence modern neutrino research. Listen to broadcast (14 min). Photo: SURF

DUNE made an appropriately strong showing at Neutrino Day. Scientist Bonnie Fleming gave a talk on neutrinos at the historic Lead Opera House, explaining how Davis’ research laid the foundation for DUNE and enchanting the 100-strong audience with facts about those ghostly, elusive particles. Fleming also made an appearance on the South Dakota Public Radio show Innovation, broadcasting from the 4,850 level underground.

Mark Thomson led a lively and well-attended video chat with scientists at Fermilab. He showed the audience  just how data is collected for neutrino experiments and explained how LBNF will send neutrinos from Fermilab’s accelerator complex 800 miles to the DUNE far detector.

In the conference’s exhibit area, the DUNE booth was mobbed from start to finish. Kids enjoyed sending neutrinos (actually brass BBs) through a clear plastic tube to a mock-up of the detector. This hands-on interactive display proved an excellent way to explain the experiment to the hundreds of interested people.

Kids and their parents also enjoyed guessing the number of jellybeans in the universe (or rather, a glass jar meant to symbolize the universe) and snapped up information about DUNE and the temporary tattoos of neutrinos.

DUNE’s contributions to Neutrino Day sat nicely alongside the rest of the program, which included a keynote talk on gravitational waves by LIGO’s Michael Landry, a reading of Penny Penniston’s play Now Then Again (which takes place at Fermilab and incorporates numerous scientific concepts), tours of Sanford Lab and all-day fun demonstrations by “Science Steve.” The event was fun and educational for the whole family, and only promises to grow as LBNF/DUNE construction moves ahead.

Read more and — more importantly — see more pictures!