Kids will have a chance to learn about exciting experiments taking place in the Black Hills this weekend at the annual Neutrino Day science festival in Lead.
The festival will be held Friday and Saturday, and begin at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center, 160 W. Main St. Other activities will take place throughout Lead.
The event celebrates research that's being conducted at the Sanford Underground Research Facility, said Constance Walter, communication director at Sanford Lab. Utilizing the deep Homestake Mine in Lead, scientists have flocked to the site, investigating fields of study such as geology, biology, engineering, dark matter and the elusive neutrinos — tiny particles that travel at near light speeds.
“One of the very first physics experiments was done here in 1965 by Ray Davis Jr., who won a Nobel Prize in physics for his solar neutrino research,” Walter said. “We want to commemorate and honor all the scientists and researchers who are tenacious enough to stick with their investigations and share the results.”
Visitors to Neutrino Day can expect hands-on activities, demonstrations, and live online chats with scientists who are directly below them, underground in the mine.
“We will show demos on how gravity works, and how neutrinos change as they travel, and what it’s like to be underground as a scientist, just to name a few,” Walter said.
The hoist room will be open for tours beginning at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. The pulley system in the hoist room, which moves elevator cages from the surface of the old mine to the Lab’s underground facility, has been in continuous use since the 1930s.
This year’s Neutrino Day festival features some unique events.
“During the total solar eclipse happening in August, we have affiliated with NASA to conduct a weather balloon release,” said Walter. “Our trial balloon launch will take place on Saturday morning at 9 a.m., weather permitting, of course.”
South Dakota Public Broadcasting's Science Steve will be on hand Saturday for kid-oriented activities and presentations.
Keynote speaker Michael Landry, lead scientist at LIGO Hanford Observatory in Richland, Wash., will give a presentation from 10 a.m. to noon Friday from 10 and again at 4 p.m. Saturday.
“This year, we will offer a special play, ‘Now, Then, Again,’ about the history of the Lab,” Walter explained. “The playwright will be on hand for the Friday evening performance, and the encore performance is Saturday, both at 6 p.m.”
“We look forward to this all year,” Walter said. “This is for everyone — not just science buffs. We want ‘kids of all ages’ to come and ask questions and see what we are doing up here.”