An absence of neutrinos associated with cosmic-ray acceleration in γ-ray bursts

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Very energetic astrophysical events are required to accelerate cosmic rays to above 1018 electronvolts. GRBs (γ-ray bursts) have been proposed as possible candidate sources1,2,3. In the GRB ‘fireball’ model, cosmic-ray acceleration should be accompanied by neutrinos produced in the decay of charged pions created in interactions between the high-energy cosmic-ray protons and γ-rays4. Previous searches for such neutrinos found none, but the constraints were weak because the sensitivity was at best approximately equal to the predicted flux5,6,7. Here we report an upper limit on the flux of energetic neutrinos associated with GRBs that is at least a factor of 3.7 below the predictions4,8,9,10. This implies either that GRBs are not the only sources of cosmic rays with energies exceeding 1018 electronvolts or that the efficiency of neutrino production is much lower than has been predicted.

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Figure 1: Comparison of results to predictions based on observed γ-ray spectra.
Figure 2: Upper limits on E −2 power-law muon neutrino fluxes.
Figure 3: Compatibility of some neutrino flux predictions based on cosmic ray production in GRBs with observations.
Figure 4: Constraints on fireball parameters.


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We acknowledge support from the following agencies: US NSF, Office of Polar Programs, and US NSF, Physics Division; University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the GLOW and OSG grids; US DOE, NERSCC; the LONI grid; NSERC, Canada; Swedish Research Council, Swedish Polar Research Secretariat, SNIC, K. and A. Wallenberg Foundation, Sweden; German Ministry for Education and Research, Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft; Research Department of Plasmas with Complex Interactions (Bochum), Germany; FSR, FWO Odysseus, IWT, BELSPO, Belgium; University of Oxford, UK; Marsden Fund, New Zealand; Australian Research Council; JSPS, Japan; SNSF, Switzerland. J.P.R was supported by the Capes Foundation, Brazil; N.W. by the NSF GRFP. We thank S. Hümmer, E. Waxman and W. Winter for discussions.

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The IceCube observatory was designed and constructed by the IceCube Collaboration and the IceCube Project. It is operated by the IceCube Collaboration, who set science goals. Data processing and calibration, Monte Carlo simulations of the detector and of theoretical models, and data analyses were performed by a large number of IceCube members who also discussed and approved the scientific results. This manuscript was written by P.R. and N.W. and subjected to an internal collaboration-wide review process. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

Correspondence to P. Redl or N. Whitehorn.

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