Measurement of the multi-TeV neutrino interaction cross-section with IceCube using Earth absorption

  • An Erratum to this article was published on 14 February 2018

Abstract

Neutrinos interact only very weakly, so they are extremely penetrating. The theoretical neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section, however, increases with increasing neutrino energy, and neutrinos with energies above 40 teraelectronvolts (TeV) are expected to be absorbed as they pass through the Earth. Experimentally, the cross-section has been determined only at the relatively low energies (below 0.4 TeV) that are available at neutrino beams from accelerators1,2. Here we report a measurement of neutrino absorption by the Earth using a sample of 10,784 energetic upward-going neutrino-induced muons. The flux of high-energy neutrinos transiting long paths through the Earth is attenuated compared to a reference sample that follows shorter trajectories. Using a fit to the two-dimensional distribution of muon energy and zenith angle, we determine the neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section for neutrino energies 6.3–980 TeV, more than an order of magnitude higher than previous measurements. The measured cross-section is about 1.3 times the prediction of the standard model3, consistent with the expectations for charged- and neutral-current interactions. We do not observe a large increase in the cross-section with neutrino energy, in contrast with the predictions of some theoretical models, including those invoking more compact spatial dimensions4 or the production of leptoquarks5. This cross-section measurement can be used to set limits on the existence of some hypothesized beyond-standard-model particles, including leptoquarks.

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Figure 1: Neutrino cross-section measurements.
Figure 2: Neutrino absorption in the Earth.
Figure 3: Cross-section data compared with Monte Carlo model predictions.

Change history

  • 14 February 2018

    Change history: Please see accompanying Erratum (http://doi.org/10.1038/nature25472). In this Letter, ‘HERA’ was wrongly expanded to ‘Hydrogen Epoch of Reionization Array’ instead of ‘Hadron-Electron Ring Accelerator’ on page 597. In addition, some author affiliations were wrongly assigned. The original Letter has been corrected online.

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Acknowledgements

We acknowledge support from the following agencies: United States Air Force Academy, US National Science Foundation, Office of Polar Programs; US National Science Foundation, Physics Division; University of Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation; the Grid Laboratory of Wisconsin (GLOW) grid infrastructure at the University of Wisconsin, Madison; the Open Science Grid (OSG) grid infrastructure; US Department of Energy; National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center; the Louisiana Optical Network Initiative (LONI) grid computing resources; Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; WestGrid and Compute/Calcul Canada; Swedish Research Council; Swedish Polar Research Secretariat; Swedish National Infrastructure for Computing (SNIC); Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation; German Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF); Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG); Helmholtz Alliance for Astroparticle Physics (HAP); Initiative and Networking Fund of the Helmholtz Association, Germany; Fund for Scientific Research (FNRS-FWO), FWO Odysseus programme, Flanders Institute to encourage scientific and technological research in industry (IWT), Belgian Federal Science Policy Office (BELSPO); Marsden Fund; Australian Research Council; Japan Society for Promotion of Science (JSPS); Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF); National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF); Villum Fonden, Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF).

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The IceCube neutrino observatory was designed and constructed by the IceCube Collaboration and the IceCube Project, which continues to operate it. 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 Collaboration members, who also discussed and approved the scientific results. The analysis presented here was performed by S.Mi. with input from G.B. The paper was written by S.Mi., G.B. and S.R.K. and reviewed by the collaboration. All authors approved the final version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to S. R. Klein.

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Reviewer Information Nature thanks A. De Gouvea and the other anonymous reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Aartsen, M., Ackermann, M., Adams, J. et al. Measurement of the multi-TeV neutrino interaction cross-section with IceCube using Earth absorption. Nature 551, 596–600 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature24459

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