ATLAS OBSCURA

Super-Kamiokande - Hida, Japan

Neutrinos are some of the most abundant yet mysterious particles in our universe. Every second 50 trillion of them fly through our bodies without so much as a trace. Their neutral electric charge and miniscule mass allow neutrinos to pass through ordinary matter practically undisturbed.

This characteristic of neutrinos also makes the tiny particles frustratingly difficult to detect. It is no surprise, then, that scientists must go to great extremes to build a functional neutrino detector. Often the equipment must be buried beneath a mountain or submerged in an ultra-deep lake to isolate the experiment from cosmic rays, but ultimately neutrino detectors make for some of the most impressive instruments in science.

Super-Kamiokande is one such neutrino observatory, hidden 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) beneath Mount Kamiokakō near the Japanese city of Hida. The detector itself takes the form of an enormous steel tank, measuring 41.4 meters (135.8 feet) tall, 39.3 meters (128.9 feet) across, and holding 50,000 tons of ultrapure water.

Mounted on the inside surface of the tank are 11,146 photomultiplier tubes (PMT), devices used to detect the light produced when neutrinos interact with the surrounding water.

But WHY must it be so beautiful?! More on the Super-Kamiokande on Atlas Obscura…