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The IceCube neutrino telescope is the world's largest neutrino detector. IceCube was built between 2004 and 2010 at the geographic South Pole by placing thousands of spherical optical modules (secondary electron multipliers, or PMTs) in the depths of Antarctic ice between 1450 and 2450 meters. These sensors were lowered on 86 strings of 60 modules each in holes drilled with hot water.Copyright: © IceCube Collaboration
The main objective of the experiment is to measure high-energy neutrinos in the energy range from 1011eV to about 1018eV. The neutrinos are detected by observing the rare collisions with atoms in the ice. The direction and energy of the incident neutrinos are estimated from its collision products. With the IceCube detector, several hundred such events are recorded per day. Most of these neutrinos are generated in showers of air in the Earth's atmosphere produced by cosmic rays, but a small proportion of neutrinos come from previously unidentified astrophysical sources, as discovered by IceCube in 2013. These neutrinos are characterized by particularly high energies, exceeding 1015eV. One focus of research now lies in the identification of the sources of these neutrinos. These could be e.g. black holes in the center of active galaxies, cosmic gamma-ray bursts or supernova remnants. As an important step, in 2018 for the first time some neutrinos could be assigned to a known cosmic source, TXS 0506+056. In 2022, further evidence of high-energy neutrino emission from the active galaxy NGC 1068 was found.
The data collected by IceCube allow completely new astronomical measurements at highest energies and have opened a new observation window to the universe. In addition, the measurements also allow the investigation of many aspects of fundamental nuclear and particle physics, such as the measurement of neutrino properties e.g. via neutrino oscillations, the search for dark matter and the measurement of cosmic rays via air showers.
As the next step towards a next generation instrument (IceCube-Gen2), an extension of the current telescope with at least 7 strings of novel sensors is currently being prepared (IceCube upgrade). These strings will significantly improve the measuring accuracy of the entire telescope. The installation is planned for winter 2022/23.
Main research in AachenCopyright: © IceCube Collaboration
In Aachen we contribute in various ways to the IceCube experiment. Among these are:
Analysis of data from IceCube
- Search for cosmic neutrino sources
- Search for the cosmic neutrino flux
- Search for dark matter
Measurements of atmospheric neutrinos and their oscillations
for the future expansion of IceCube
- Tests of photosensors and electronics for new optical modules
- Development of improved calibration methods based on acoustic measurements in ice
- Development of imaging air Cherenkov telescopes for the measurement of air showers at the ice surface (IceAct)
Aachen IceCube groupCopyright: © RWTH IceCube Group