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Neutrino lab garners ORION Discovery Award

Kingston, ON – The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), known as Canada’s Eye on the Universe, is being awarded the Ontario Research and Innovation Optical Network’s (ORION) Discovery Award at Ontario’s Research and Education Summit on June 5 in Toronto. The award celebrates the use of advanced networks and collaborative technologies in scientific research, teaching and learning.

SNO director, Dr Art McDonald, professor of physics at Queen’s University, has been recognized worldwide for the team’s discoveries. Among other awards, Dr McDonald was named winner of the 2003 Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering.

“By using the latest networking technology throughout the SNO project our international scientific collaboration has been able to make measurements with great significance for physics and astrophysics,” he says. “It is an honour for this to be recognized through the ORION Award.”

SNO, located in INCO’s Creighton Mine (the lowest-radioactivity experimental location in the world), is a $100-million international particle astrophysics project. The observatory uses the advanced networking link provided by ORION, Ontario’s leading-edge research and education network, to enable the 130 international scientists to measure flux, energy and direction of electron-neutrinos produced in the sun. Data is received directly from the experiment to their desktops, equipment is monitored remotely and complex calculations are performed using high-performance computing resources.

SNO uses ORION to facilitate high-speed communication for many initiatives including “Supernova Watch.” Under this program, SNO members will monitor events that could arise from neutrinos created in a supernova (a star collapsing through gravity) in our galaxy. In the case of such an event, a dozen scientists from around the world would receive a neutrino signal up to two hours before the light could be observed in telescopes.

This global-scale collaboration involves several Ontario partners, including Queen’s, Laurentian, Carleton, and Guelph universities, as well as the involvement of colleagues at the University of British Columbia, TRIUMF laboratory and institutions in the US and the UK.