MINOS lab departs Soudan mine cavern

One of the massive steel panels is removed from the MINOS laboratory in the Soudan Underground Mine this week. The signatures are from the crew working that day. The panels were originally installed in 2003 as part of an experiment to study the nature of subatomic particles like neutrinos. (PHOTO: Soudan Underground Lab FB Page)

This week crews remove components from the MINOS laboratory on the 27th level of the Soudan Underground Mine on Northern Minnesota’s Iron Range. The picture above shows massive steel “neutrino tracking” panels” being removed from the facility. Since 2003, the lab hosted notable experiments testing the nature of subatomic particles in a beam fired underground from the Fermilab facility in Chicago.

During a 2016 Great Northern Radio Show broadcast, scientists explained the significance of what happened at the Soudan lab using “scientist humor.” It was “adorkable,” and a good primer on what has gone on there. The segment is called “Hunting for Neutrinos.” (My very first Great Northern Radio Show in 2011 included an elaborate melodrama about a mutant monster created in the lab).

The University of Minnesota and other organizations have conducted scientific experiments of various sorts in the Soudan mine for more than 30 years. Several experiments continue today, though not as high profile as the MINOS work. Another laboratory at Ash River near Littlefork, miles away from Soudan, also continues to collect underground particle data.

Anyway, the lab remains available for future experiments, but as neutrino experiments continues to advance scientists seek labs even deeper below the surface of the Earth.

You can still visit the historic underground iron mine, though. That remains one of my most recommended tours on the Iron Range. If you want to understand how early miners worked and how different their world was from today’s you simply must see what went on there.

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