The observatory is an enormous telescope designed to capture evidence of elusive subatomic particles called neutrinos released by distant cosmic events like exploding stars. Built directly into the ice covering Antarctica, IceCube uses the Earth to filter out lower-energy particles and focus instead on the highest energy neutrinos that carry information about supernovas, dark matter, gamma-ray bursts and other exotic cosmological mysteries.
Such neutrino studies, including MINOS, Numi, NOvA, etc. are all part of the cross-breeding between high energy physics and astrophysics, forming what is now known as "Particle Astrophysics". It could also be what made a few traditional astronomers a bit pissed as well since the study of the heavens and far regions of space have shifted more and more away from classical astronomy and more and more into physics and particle physics.