My research uses neutrinos from natural sources to study the basic properties of these fundamental particles and to try to pinpoint and understand their astrophysical sources.
Neutrinos are the least well understood of the dozen particles that make up the Standard Model of Particle Physics. We’re working hard to change that, trying to elevate our understanding of how these ubiquitous particles behave. Although the Big Bang flooded the universe with neutrinos, dumping about 300 of them in every cubic centimeter of the universe, and although 100 billion pass through your thumbnail every second, neutrinos are fiendishly difficult to detect.
To compensate, experimenters have employed high-flux sources like reactors and accelerators with great success to study neutrino properties. Another approach is to make the detector so large that it can take advantage even when the fluxes are low. The IceCube detector takes this idea to the extreme, creating a neutrino detector dwarfing all previous and existing detectors, instrumenting a cubic kilometer of ice underneath the South Pole, Antarctica. IceCube takes advantage of natural sources of neutrinos, in the earth’s atmosphere and in as-yet-unknown astrophysical sources, casting a gigantic net to capture enough neutrinos to study them.
The Astrophysical Multimessenger Observatory Network (AMON) will weave together the signals from world-class particle astrophysics experiments, including ANTARES, Auger, HAWC, and IceCube, to search for directional and temporal coincidences in real time. AMON will provide the particle astrophysics community with a framework for collecting and analyzing “sub-threshold” data, i.e., data that no single experiment can use on its own to search for astrophysical sources. AMON will distribute alerts to its participants and, eventually, to the astronomical community at large, enabling quick follow-up observations of potential transient sources.