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You’ve got questions. We’ve got (fun) answers.
Erin Broberg

With an environment as unique as a science laboratory a mile underground, it’s no wonder our region is bubbling with questions about the work being done at Sanford Underground Research Facility (Sanford Lab). On Neutrino Day, our biggest outreach event of the year, Sanford Lab invites you to bring your curiosity to Lead, South Dakota, for a day of scientific discovery.

Let’s see if we can guess some of your questions and let you know where to find engaging answers at Neutrino Day on Saturday, July 13. Unless a specific time is noted, activities run from 9:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m. See a full list of events here.

  1. “What is a neutrino? And why is Sanford Lab so crazy about them?”

It’s safe to say Sanford Lab is enthralled by these particles—after all, we named our largest outreach event after them. On Neutrino Day, we’ve designed a way for you to collect and detect a few neutrinos yourself.

As you visit different locations on Neutrino Day, stop by our “stamping stations” at the Sanford Lab Education and Outreach building, the All in One Events Center and the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center (Visitor Center) to get invisible ink stamps of each type of neutrino. At the Visitor Center, step into the Neutrino Detector 5000 to illuminate the neutrinos you’ve collected. Then check out our informational displays to learn more about these ghostly particles and why we study them.

  1. “Why do you have to go underground to do research?”

Short answer? It’s too noisy on the surface. But we’ll leave the actual explanation to the experts.

At 10:00 a.m. at the Visitor Center, you can video chat live with researchers from the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) dark matter experiment. From the Davis Cavern on the 4850 Level of Sanford Lab, researchers will answer questions about their experiment and talk about what it’s like to work underground.

  1. “How do you get underground?”

It takes Herculean power to transport people and equipment to the 4850 Level. See the massive drums in the Yates Hoistroom and learn about what it’s like to ride the cage nearly a mile through the earth. Get your free hoistroom tour ticket at the Visitor Center. Tours begin at 8:30 a.m., with the last tour beginning at 3 p.m. Space is limited.

  1. “Is the work done at Sanford Lab safe?”

In such a unique work environment, you have to have a crew entirely dedicated to workplace safety. Learn from our Emergency Response Team (ERT) what it takes to stay safe. The ERT will be hosting safety demonstrations in the Visitor Center parking lot.

  1. “Why does this theoretical research actually matter to society?”

This is Cabot-Ann Christofferson’s favorite question—probably because she’s got a really good answer. In her TED-style talk, Majorana Demonstrator researcher Christofferson will talk about the importance of scientific inquiry, challenging the idea that experiments are only successful if researchers find the one thing they were directly attempting to detect.

Christofferson’s talk, “The Case for Curiosity,” will be at the Historic Homestake Opera House at 11 a.m.

  1. “What is this beam of neutrinos I keep hearing about?”

It’s the next big thing for United States particle physics research. The Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE) will be sending a beam of neutrinos from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago to the Far Site detector underground at Sanford Lab—all to better understand these ghostly particles.

Representatives from the experiment will be at the Sanford Lab Education and Outreach building to tell you all about the science and engineering that goes into such an undertaking (which includes excavating 800,000 tons of rock).

  1. “Wait… Just how are you going to excavate 800,000 tons of rock?”

Creating an underground space for DUNE’s detector means excavating for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility. Contracted to complete pre-excavation work, Kiewit-Alberici Joint Venture will have large excavation machinery on display in the Sanford Lab parking lot. Come see the heavy machinery capable of creating massive underground caverns and ask the Kiewit team about their work.

  1. “How do you know the rock is strong enough to excavate new caverns?”

With expertise in the Black Hills rock formations, David Vardiman, geotechnical project engineer at Sanford Lab, is just the one to ask. On the Visitor Center observation deck, Vardiman will discuss Black Hills mining history and the unique features of local rock formations that make future excavation possible.

  1. “How does the research happening at Sanford Lab connect with global research experiments?”

On the 4850 Level, the LZ dark matter experiment is in full assembly mode, creating a detector that the collaboration hopes can detect the rare signals that will tell us more about dark matter, a mysterious substance that is not yet understood by the scientific community.

At 1 p.m. in the Visitor Center, you can live video chat with researchers from CERN’s CMS experiment in Switzerland, who are looking for dark matter in a completely different way.

  1. “How does the research happening at Sanford Lab connect with projects closer to home?”

While South Dakota may not be the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of the Space Age, multiple people, places and institutions in the state have contributed—and continue to contribute—to the United States space program and the aerospace industry.

At the Sanford Lab Education and Outreach building, you can watch South Dakota Public Broadcasting’s documentary “Images of the Past: Space Age South Dakota,” which highlights those contributions. Viewing times are 9 and 10:30 a.m., noon and 2 p.m. Popcorn will be served. 

  1. “Can I take part in any of the science?”

We thought you’d never ask. All day long, you can take part in hands-on science activities, including fossil-finding with the Journey Museum at the All in One Events Center and an art activity at the Lead-Deadwood Arts Center—you can even get a taste of science with free nitrogen ice cream from South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.

  1. “Will Science Steve be there?”

In the 11 years we’ve celebrated Neutrino Day, Steve has been a part of it. And we’re not about to change that. A Neutrino Day crowd favorite “Science Steve” will wow guests with his wild science demonstrations. Take the shuttle to the Sanford Lab Education and Outreach building for Science Steve’s interactive and engaging science shows all day long.

  1. “I’m not a science geek. Will I still enjoy Neutrino Day?”

At this year’s Neutrino Day finale, astronomer José Francisco Salgado collaborates with the Black Hills Symphony Orchestra to present “The Legend of the Northern Lights,” a film that combines visual imagery and music to tell the story behind one culture’s understanding of this magnificent phenomenon.

With stunning imagery, live music, actors and storytelling, this cosmic symphony is for anyone who is curious about the universe around us.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy. Our mission is to advance compelling underground, multidisciplinary research in a safe work environment and to inspire and educate through science, technology, and engineering. Visit Sanford Lab at