So yesterday started at 5h30. I rolled out of bed, groggy and rather reluctant I will confess. I generally don’t like mornings, and I like them less when the I am up before the Sun, let alone well before the Sun.
I dragged myself through the shower, managed a cup of tea and waited for my rid. When I steppe into the crisp, Sudbury morning, winter air it finished the job and I was wide awake. No stopping me now.
A half hour later I found myself with my Science Communication class in SNOLab’s offices. This was going to be the field trip of a lifetime! We got some last instructions, filled out some forms in case of disaster, more or less they asked where does Vale ship the body. A couple people got confused and put Laurentian University’s address instead of home, but they shrugged off the misunderstanding as a worthy donation to science.
After that we were given some gear, got dressed and made our way over to the cage to start our 2 km descent into the Earth. We only descent at half speed (some 1000 ft/min) which rose a few grumbles from the miners who had to take five minutes instead of three to get down to work. Packed 44 shoulder to shoulder in a sardine tin, if it weren’t for the constant popping of my ears, I might have like 3 minutes as well. At least you were packed in so tight if you fainted you just stayed standing … or so I assume.
One underground, we started our 1 km treck to SNOLab. Mud, puddles, mine carts and lights. Not just on our helmets, but on the ceiling of the drift as well. This is one of the way Vale supports SNOLab, with lighting all the way. Usually there are almost no lights and you work by lamp light.
Once we got to SNOLab, we washed our boots, went inside then made our ways to the showers. There is no privacy for the sake of science. Buck naked and quick saunter to the showers to scrub down, before drying off and donning our clean cloths (we even got to borrow clean undies!).
So what’s the first thing I do after descending 2 km into the Earth, trudging 1.4 km in miner’s gear in an active, baring it all, and finally being granted access to the worlds deepest clean laboratory? Go I seek out my personal Mecca, SNO (the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory) that solved the missing neutrino problem in the solar model? Nope. First, I tick one of the those boxes off my bucket list: Make and drink a cup of tea 20 km bellow the surface of the Earth. Check!
Okay, so making tea underground may not have actually been on my bucket list, but it was priority number one once we got into SNOLab. Seeing SNO on the other hand was on my bucket list. For those not in the know, and if you’re not a Sun obsessed nut like myself you may not be, but SNO found the missing neutrinos from the Sun. Which in the solar-physics world is pretty damn awesome and important because it help confirm our current standing model of the Sun.
We know the Sun runs on hydrogen fusion and one of the by-products of compressing hydrogen into helium under incredible pressure and heat is the creation of neutrinos, near massless particles that kind of just pass through everything. Given the size and characteristics of the Sun, we knew we should see X number of neutrinos in our detectors here on Earth. The problem was, we only saw half that number in the first detectors built. SNO found the missing half and added confirmation to our current solar model!
Our tour started with SNO, well SNO+ as the project is being refitted to conduct other experiments.
From SNO+ we continued on through SNOLab seeing all kinds of amazing experiments and sights. Here are a few more highlights from the trip.