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India to build neutrino observatory

New Delhi -- India says it will build a more than quarter-billion-dollar underground facility to join the worldwide search for elusive neutrino particles.

The country's Environment and Forests Ministry has given the Atomic Energy Department the go-ahead for the neutrino observatory to be built in the Bodi West hills on the coast of Tamil Nadu state, the BBC reported Wednesday.

The $270 million facility will be only the fifth observatory in the world dedicated to detecting the almost mass-less elementary particles, sometimes called "ghost particles."

About 90 scientists from 26 organizations will be involved in the Indian Neutrino Observatory, organizers say.

A cavern and a mile-long tunnel will be carved under the hills where researchers will use a 55,000-ton electromagnet to carry out experiments.

"Neutrinos are tiny, neutral, elementary particles found abundantly in the cosmos. The sun and all other stars produce neutrinos abundantly through nuclear fusion and decay processes. Neutrinos rarely interact and pass unhindered through all objects including the Sun and the Earth," observatory Chairman Chinnaraj Joseph Jaikuma says.

"We have chosen a place where natural rock cover of over 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) thickness is available. The hard rocks will act as a natural filter allowing only the neutrino particles to reach the laboratory," he says.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI).

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