IceCube search for sub-TeV neutrino emission associated with LIGO/Virgo gravitational waves

Gravitational waves (GWs) are produced by some of the most extreme astrophysical phenomena, such as black hole and neutron star mergers. They have long been suspected as astrophysical sources of neutrinos, ghostlike cosmic messengers hurtling through space unimpeded. Thus far, common astrophysical sources of neutrinos and photons, as well as common sources of gravitational waves and light, have been identified. However, no one has yet detected sources that emit both gravitational waves and neutrinos.

In a study recently submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, the IceCube Collaboration performed a new search for neutrinos from GWs at the GeV-TeV scale. Although no evidence of neutrino emission was found, new upper limits on the number of neutrinos associated with each gravitational wave source and on the total energy emitted by neutrinos for each source were set.

Previously, IceCube searched for neutrinos from GW sources using the TeV-PeV neutrinos detected by the main IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cubic-kilometer detector enveloped in Antarctic ice at the South Pole. This time, collaborators used data taken with the DeepCore array, the innermost component of IceCube consisting of sensors more densely spaced than in the main array. DeepCore can detect lower energy (GeV and upward) neutrinos than is possible with the larger main array.

a pale yellow oval skymap with a location probability heatmap superimposed
Example map of the sky in neutrinos, overlaid on the localization of gravitational wave event GW 151226. The source of the gravitational wave signal is indicated by the color scale, with darker colors indicating more probable location of the source. The eight neutrinos detected by IceCube DeepCore within ±500 seconds of the gravitational wave are indicated with crosses (best fit) and curves (90% containment). Several neutrinos are spatially compatible with the direction of GW151226, but the association is not statistically significant. The IceCube Upgrade will enable improved localization of such GeV-TeV neutrinos, possibly leading to detection of a common source of gravitational waves and neutrinos. Credit: IceCube Collaboration

The analysis looked for temporal and spatial correlations between 90 GW events detected by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) and the Virgo gravitational wave detectors and neutrinos detected by DeepCore. The researchers found no significant excess of neutrinos from the direction of the GW events but set stringent upper limits on the neutrino flux and limits on the energies associated with neutrinos from each GW source.

“These results do not mean that all hope is lost for detecting such joint emissions,” says Aswathi Balagopal V., a postdoctoral associate at UW–Madison and co-lead of the analysis. “With improvements in directional reconstructions for low-energy neutrinos, which is expected with better methods and with the inclusion of the IceCube Upgrade, we will be able to achieve better sensitivities for such joint searches, potentially leading to a positive discovery.”

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UW–Madison researchers key in search for neutrino emission from the brightest gamma-ray burst ever detected

This story was originally published by WIPAC

On October 9th, 2022, an unusually bright pulse of high-energy radiation whizzed past Earth, captivating astronomers around the world. The luminous emission came from a gamma-ray burst (GRB), one of the most powerful classes of explosions in the universe. Named GRB 221009A, it triggered detectors at NASA’s Gamma-ray Burst Monitor and Large Area Telescope (both on board the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope), the Neil Gehrels Swift Observatory, and the Wind spacecraft as well as other telescopes that quickly turned to the GRB site to study its aftermath.

profile photo of Jessie Thwaites
Jessie Thwaites

This record-shattering GRB is one of the closest and the brightest GRB ever spotted, earning it the nickname BOAT (“brightest of all time”). This GRB is believed to come from an exploding star and likely signals the birth of a black hole.

In a new study by the IceCube Collaboration, published today in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, UW–Madison researchers presented results of one of five searches for neutrino emission from GRB 221009A that leveraged the full detector range, covering nine orders of magnitude in energy. Because no significant emission was found across samples spanning 10 MeV to 10 PeV, the results are the most stringent constraints on neutrino emission from GRBs.

As some of the most energetic sources in the universe, GRBs have long been considered a possible astrophysical source of neutrinos—tiny “ghostlike” particles that travel through space and large amounts of matter unhindered. These high-energy neutrinos are of particular interest to the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a gigaton-scale neutrino detector at the South Pole.

IceCube is run by the international IceCube Collaboration, which comprises over 350 scientists from 58 institutions around the world. The Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC), a research center at UW–Madison, is the lead institution for the IceCube project.

Previously, IceCube has performed searches for neutrino emission from GRBs, but thus far, a correlation has not been found between high-energy neutrinos and GRBs. The recent observation of GRB 221009A presented IceCube with the best opportunity yet to search for neutrino emission by GRBs.

profile photo of Justin Vandenbroucke
Justin Vandenbroucke

“Not only was this GRB the brightest ever detected in gamma rays, it also occurred in a region of the sky where IceCube is very sensitive,” says UW–Madison physics professor Justin Vandenbroucke, who helped lead the analysis.

For the study, collaborators carried out five complementary IceCube analyses that encompassed the full energy range of the detector. Each analysis targeted a specific energy range, with the idea of covering as wide an energy range as possible. UW–Madison physics PhD student Jessie Thwaites was one of the main analyzers.

Thwaites performed a “fast response” analysis based on real-time data from the South Pole to search for high-energy (0.10 teraelectronvolts to 10 petaelectronvolts) neutrinos from the direction of the GRB. They chose two time windows: one three-hour window covering all of the triggers reported in real time, and one covering two days. Their analysis, which set strong constraints on neutrino emission from GRBs, was quickly reported to the community, within hours of the GRB being detected by the gamma-ray satellites.

“In the high energies, our upper limits are very constraining—they are below the observations from gamma-ray telescopes,” says Thwaites. “These upper limits, combined with the observations from many electromagnetic telescopes, give us more information about GRBs as potential particle accelerators.”

Because this GRB is so bright, and because it has been so well studied, IceCube is able to place constraining upper limits on neutrino emission models proposed for this specific GRB. These constraints will enable better understanding of how GRBs work.

The collaborators are already developing new methods to improve searches for neutrinos from GRBs and other transient astrophysical sources. In addition, future upgrades and proposed extensions of IceCube, including the IceCube Upgrade project and IceCube-Gen2, could be the key to finding high-energy neutrino emission from GRBs or other transients.

According to Vandenbroucke, “This GRB illustrates the capabilities of IceCube for real-time follow-up of astrophysical transients. IceCube views the entire sky, all the time, over a factor of a billion in energy range. There is likely a burst of neutrinos already flying towards us from some other cosmic source, and we are ready for it.”

+ info “Limits on Neutrino Emission from GRB 221009A from MeV to PeV using the IceCube Neutrino Observatory,” The IceCube Collaboration: R. Abbasi et al. Published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. arxiv.org/abs/2302.05459

IceCube performs the first search for neutrinos from novae

an oval map of the galaxy with symbols indicating where the novae analyzed are located

White dwarfs are very dense, compact objects that are one of the possibilities for the final evolutionary state of stars. If they happen to be in a binary system with another companion star, the white dwarf may pull material from the companion star onto its surface. In this case, if enough material is accumulated, a nuclear reaction may occur on the surface of the white dwarf, causing a luminous burst of photons called a nova. Historically, astronomers believed they were seeing stars being born, hence the name, although we now know that is not the case. In the past decade, GeV and even TeV gamma rays were discovered from novae, suggesting that neutrinos—neutral, nearly massless cosmic messengers—could originate from novae as well.

In a paper recently submitted to The Astrophysical Journal, the IceCube Collaboration presents its first search for neutrinos from novae using a subarray of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a gigaton-scale detector operating at the South Pole. Although significant emission from novae was not found, IceCube set the first observational upper limits on neutrino emission from novae.

According to Justin Vandenbroucke, professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and one of the study leads, “Novae, the little cousins of supernovae, are one of the longest known types of astrophysical transient. The discovery that they produce gamma rays was a huge surprise. Our neutrino analyses are starting to add to the modern understanding of these historical phenomena.”

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Help IceCube decode signals from outer space in new Citizen Science project

Every second, about 100 trillion neutrinos pass through your body unnoticed. At the South Pole, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory detects these elusive particles and works to identify their astronomical origins to help unlock mysteries of the universe. Such an undertaking requires a massive amount of data, with one terabyte of data recorded daily by IceCube. But organizing the data can be labor intensive. This is where the public can help.

Starting today, volunteers from anywhere can participate in the Name that Neutrino project led by IceCube researchers at Drexel University, which asks users to categorize IceCube data. Through the Zooniverse platform, volunteers can join in from the convenience of their own computer or phone. Name that Neutrino is open to everyone and will run for about 10 weeks.

Read the full story at https://icecube.wisc.edu/news/2023/03/help-icecube-decode-signals-from-outer-space/

Want to get involved? Here’s how:

  1. Click on the link: https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/icecubeobservatory/name-that-neutrino 
  2. Click “Get Started” to begin.
  3. Click “Tutorial” to learn about how to classify signals.
  4. Watch the brief video and pick one of the five categories for signals.
  5. Check out the “Field Guide” for more examples and information.

Royal visit strengthens WIPAC and IceCube’s partnership with Thailand

A budding collaboration between the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center and Chiang Mai University in Thailand took a grand turn with a visit to the Royal Palace in Bangkok. There, discussions between scientists from WIPAC, a University of Wisconsin–Madison research center, and Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn explored how to increase research opportunities for Thai researchers and technical staff at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory.

IceCube, a unique telescope that has instrumented a billion tons of South Pole ice, searches for tiny, ghostlike particles called neutrinos to study the most powerful cosmic engines in the universe. HRH Sirindhorn’s fascination with physics, astronomy and Antarctic research has become evident in her strong advocacy for this work in general and IceCube science in particular.

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UW–Madison physicists key in revealing neutrinos emanating from galactic neighbor with a gigantic black hole

On Earth, billions of subatomic particles called neutrinos pass through us every second, but we never notice because they rarely interact with matter. Because of this, neutrinos can travel straight paths over vast distances unimpeded, carrying information about their cosmic origins.

Although most of these aptly named “ghost” particles detected on Earth originate from the Sun or our own atmosphere, some neutrinos come from the cosmos, far beyond our galaxy. These neutrinos, called astrophysical neutrinos, can provide valuable insight into some of the most powerful objects in the universe.

For the first time, an international team of scientists has found evidence of high-energy astrophysical neutrinos emanating from the galaxy NGC 1068 in the constellation Cetus.

The detection was made by the National Science Foundation-supported IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a 1-billion-ton neutrino telescope made of scientific instruments and ice situated 1.5-2.5 kilometers below the surface at the South Pole.

These new results, to be published tomorrow (Nov. 4, 2022) in Science, were shared in a presentation given today at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

“One neutrino can single out a source. But only an observation with multiple neutrinos will reveal the obscured core of the most energetic cosmic objects,” says Francis Halzen, a University of Wisconsin–Madison professor of physics and principal investigator of the IceCube project. “IceCube has accumulated some 80 neutrinos of teraelectronvolt energy from NGC 1068, which are not yet enough to answer all our questions, but they definitely are the next big step toward the realization of neutrino astronomy.”

For the full story, please visit https://news.wisc.edu/uw-madison-scientists-and-staff-key-in-revealing-neutrinos-emanating-from-galactic-neighbor-with-a-gigantic-black-hole/

 

The future of particle physics is also written from the South Pole

This post was originally published by the IceCube collaboration. Several UW–Madison physicists are part of the collaboration and are featured in this story

A month ago, the Seattle Community Summer Study Workshop—July 17-26, 2022, at the University of Washington—brought together over a thousand scientists in one of the final steps of the Particle Physics Community Planning Exercise. The meetings and accompanying white papers put the cherry on top of a period of collaborative work setting a vision for the future of particle physics in the U.S. and abroad. Later this year, the final report identifying research priorities in this field will be presented. Its main purpose is to advise the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation on research for their agendas during the next decade.

As new and old detectors once again prepare to expand the frontiers of knowledge, we asked some IceCube collaborators about the role the South Pole neutrino observatory should play in the bright future that lies ahead for particle physics.

Q: What type of neutrinos are currently detected in IceCube? And will that change with the future extensions?

The vast majority of the neutrinos we detect are generated in the atmosphere by cosmic rays, but we also have on the order of 1,000 cosmic neutrinos at energies above 10 TeV. We use the atmospheric neutrinos for a wide range of science, first of all to study the neutrinos themselves.

IceCube has detected more than a million neutrinos to date. That’s already a big number for neutrino scientists, and we will detect even more in the future. The deployment of the IceCube Upgrade, an extension of our facility targeting neutrinos at lower energies, will increase the density of sensors in IceCube’s inner subdetector, DeepCore, by a factor of 10. And a second, larger extension is also in the works. With IceCube-Gen2, we will improve the detection at the highest energies, too: the IceCube volume will increase by almost a factor of 10, and our event rate for high-energy cosmic neutrinos will also grow by an order of magnitude.

Albrecht Karle, IceCube associate director for science and instrumentation and a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Q: Are the futures of IceCube and that of particle physics intrinsically linked?

Absolutely! Many open questions in particle physics have neutrinos at the center. What’s their mass? What is the behavior of neutrino flavor mixing? Are there right-handed (sterile) neutrinos? Neutrinos are particularly attractive in the search for new physics. We can answer all these questions, to varying levels, within IceCube and especially moving forward with the IceCube Upgrade and IceCube-Gen2.

Erin O’Sullivan, an associate professor of physics at Uppsala University

IceCube, the Icecube Upgrade, and IceCube-Gen2 can all uniquely contribute to the study of particle physics, in particular, neutrino physics, beyond Standard Model (BSM) physics, and indirect searches of dark matter. The IceCube Upgrade provides complementary and independent measurements of neutrino oscillation in addition to the long-baseline experiments. And IceCube-Gen2 will be crucial to exploring the BSM features, such as sterile neutrinos and secret neutrino interactions, at an energy that cannot be reached by the underground facilities. It will also be a discovery machine for heavy dark matter particles.

Ke Fang, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Q: Talking about discoveries, now that both IceCube and Super-Kamiokande have reported definitive observations of tau neutrinos in atmospheric and astrophysical neutrino data, why should the international particle physics community continue to improve their detection?  

The tau neutrino was discovered at Fermilab in an emulsion experiment where they observed double-bang events with a distance on the order of 1 mm separating production and decay. Since they represent the least studied neutrino and, in fact, one of the least studied particles, improved measurements of tau properties may reveal that the 3×3 matrix is not unitary and expose the first indication of physics beyond the 3-flavor oscillation scenario.

Francis Halzen, IceCube PI and a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

We are the only experiment operating currently (and in the foreseeable future) that is able to identify tau neutrinos on an event-by-event basis. We can do so by looking at the distinct morphological features they produce in our data at the highest energies. And with the IceCube Upgrade, we will also be the experiment that collects the most tau neutrinos.  I suspect that these neutrinos will surprise us again and point us towards new physics.

Carlos Argüelles, an assistant professor of physics at Harvard University.  

Four hundred years from now, people may see IceCube the way we see Galileo’s telescope, not as an end but as the beginning of a new branch of science. The astrophysical observation of tau neutrinos is but one piece in a large number of studies that IceCube can conduct, including the study of fundamental physics using astrophysical neutrinos.

Ignacio Taboada, IceCube spokesperson and a professor of physics at the Georgia Institute of Technology

Q: In 2019, the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center joined the Interactions Collaboration, which includes all major particle physics laboratories around the globe. The IceCube letter of introduction to this community detailed some of the most accurate results to date in neutrino physics. What’s unique about IceCube neutrino science?

One unique aspect of IceCube is the breadth of neutrino energy that we can measure, all the way down to the MeV energy scale in the case of a galactic supernova and up to as far as a few PeV neutrinos, which are the highest energy neutrinos ever detected. Therefore, IceCube provides us with different windows to study the neutrino and understand its properties. Especially in the context of searching for new physics, this is important as these processes can manifest at a particular energy scale but not be visible at other energy scales.

Erin O’Sullivan, an associate professor of physics at Uppsala University

Q:  Let’s focus on high-energy neutrinos for a moment. What are the needs for their detection and why is the South Pole ice the perfect place for those searches? 

The highest energy neutrinos can be directly linked to the most powerful accelerators in the universe but also allow us to test the Standard Model at energies inaccessible to current or future planned colliders.

And why the South Pole? Well, what makes the South Pole such an optimal location are the exceptional optical and radio properties of its ice sheet, which is also the largest pool of ice on Earth. Neutrino event rates are very low at these energies and, thus, we need a huge detector to measure them.

Deep-ice Cherenkov optical sensors have already been proven as high-performing detectors for TeV and PeV neutrinos when deployed at depths of 1.4 km and greater below the surface. And radio technology is promising because radio waves can travel much further than optical photons in the ice, plus they work at shallow depths. So, when searching for the highest energy neutrinos using the South Pole ice sheet, radio neutrino detectors might be the only solution that scales up. Radio waves are able to travel further in the South Pole than in Greenland, for example. It’s a gift from nature to have this giant, pure block of ice to catch elusive neutrinos from the most powerful accelerators.

Lu Lu, an assistant professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison

Q: And what about the lowest energies? How does IceCube perform there? 

IceCube’s DeepCore detector was especially designed for that: a more dense layout of photodetectors embedded in the center of IceCube and located at about 2 km depth, it uses the surrounding IceCube sensors to eliminate essentially all background from the otherwise dominant cosmic ray muons. This means that DeepCore can now be analyzed as if it was at 10 km depth, deeper than any mine on Earth. In the near future, the IceCube Upgrade will add seven strings of new sensors inside DeepCore, which will hugely increase its precision for neutrino properties.

Albrecht Karle, IceCube associate director for science and instrumentation and a professor of physics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison 

IceCube’s low energies are what all other neutrino experiments would call high energies. This is a regime where the neutrino interactions are well predicted from accelerator experiments, which means that if deviations are found in the data we can claim new physics. Thus, IceCube and the upcoming IceCub Upgrade results are not only going to yield some of the most precise measurements on the neutrino oscillation parameters but also—and more importantly—test the neutrino oscillation framework.

Carlos Argüelles, an assistant professor of physics at Harvard University  

Q: And, last but not least, we should think about the people that will make all this possible. What efforts are underway to diversify who does science and make the field more equitable?

Four years ago, IceCube invited a few collaborations to join efforts to increase equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) in multimessenger astrophysics. With support from NSF, this was the birth of the Multimessenger Diversity Network (MDN). This network now includes a dozen participating collaborations, which is an indication of the growing awareness and action to increase DEIA across the field. Set up as a community of practice, where people share their knowledge and experiences with each other, the MDN is a reproducible and scalable model for other fields. We are excited to see this community of practice grow, to contribute with resources and experiences, and to learn from others.

For the first time in an official capacity, DEIA efforts were included in the Snowmass planning process and were also incorporated into the Astro2020 Decadal Survey. One take-away from these processes is that more resources and accountability are needed to speed up DEIA efforts.

Ellen Bechtol, MDN community manager and an outreach specialist at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center

Read more about IceCube and its future contributions to particle physics

  • Snowmass Neutrino Frontier: NF04 Topical Group Report. Neutrinos from natural sources. (Jul 2022)
  • CF7. Cosmic Probes of Fundamental Physics. Topical Group Report (Jul  2022).
  • “High-Energy and Ultra-High-Energy Neutrinos: A Snowmass White Paper”, M.Ackermann et al. arxiv.org/abs/2203.08096
  • “Tau Neutrinos in the Next Decade: from GeV to EeV,” R. S. Abraham et al. arxiv.org/abs/2203.05591
  • “Snowmass White Paper: Beyond the Standard Model effects on Neutrino Flavor,” C. Argüelles et al. arxiv.org/abs/2203.10811
  • “Snowmass 2021 White Paper: Cosmogenic Dark Matter and Exotic Particle Searches in Neutrino Experiments,” J. Berger et al. arxiv.org/abs/2207.02882
  • “White Paper on Light Sterile Neutrino Searches and Related Phenomenology,” M. A. Acero et al, arxiv.org/abs/2203.07323
  • “Ultra-High-Energy Cosmic Rays: The Intersection of the Cosmic and Energy Frontiers,” A. Coleman, arxiv.org/abs/2205.05845
  • “Advancing the Landscape of Multimessenger Science in the Next Decade,” K. Engle et al. arxiv.org/abs/2203.10074

Search for neutrino emission associated with LIGO/Virgo gravitational waves

Gravitational waves (GWs) are a signature for some of the most energetic phenomena in the universe, which cause ripples in space-time that travel at the speed of light. These events, spurred by massive accelerating objects, act as cosmic messengers that carry with them clues to their origins. They are also probable sources for highly energetic neutrinos, nearly massless cosmic messengers hurtling through space unimpeded. Because neutrinos rarely interact with surrounding matter, they can reveal phenomena that are otherwise unobserved with electromagnetic waves. These high-energy neutrinos are detected by the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, a cubic-kilometer detector enveloped in Antarctic ice at the South Pole.

Both GWs and neutrinos are recently introduced messengers in astronomy and have yet to be detected by the same source. Such a major discovery would not only shed light on the sources of cosmic rays but would also help in understanding the most energetic processes in the universe. By coordinating traditional observations (from radio to gamma rays) with these new messengers, researchers can gain deeper insights into astrophysical sources that were unobtainable before.

Previously, the IceCube Collaboration looked for joint emission of GWs and high-energy neutrinos with data collected by IceCube, the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), and the Virgo gravitational wave detector. These results were from GWs observed during the first two observing runs (O1 and O2) of LIGO and Virgo. IceCube researchers from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and Columbia University conducted an updated analysis of GWs from the third observing run (O3) of the LIGO/Virgo detectors. The increased number of GWs improved the researchers’ overall analysis. Their findings were recently submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

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Study led by UW–Madison researcher confirms star wreck as source of extreme cosmic particles

Astronomers have long sought the launch sites for some of the highest energy protons in our galaxy. Now, a study using 12 years of data from NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope (Fermi) confirms that a remnant of a supernova, or star explosion, is just such a place, solving a decade-long cosmic mystery.

a mostly black image of space, with some small white-ish out-of-focus stars, and a large fuzzy pink blob partially overlapping a green-hued amorphous apparition
The newly discovered PeVatron (in pink) is hosted by a supernova remnant (in green) called G106.3+2.7. The supernova remnant is believed to have formed together with the pulsar (in magenta) about 10,000 years ago. Particles accelerated by the shock waves of the supernova remnant interact with the gas in the interstellar medium, producing high-energy gamma-ray emission. Credit: Jayanne English, University of Manitoba, NASA/Fermi/Fang et al. 2022, and Canadian Galactic Plane Survey/DRAO.

Previously, Fermi has shown that the shock waves of exploded stars boost particles to speeds comparable to that of light. Called cosmic rays, these particles mostly take the form of protons, but can include atomic nuclei and electrons. Because they all carry an electric charge, their paths become scrambled as they whisk through our galaxy’s magnetic field, which masks their origins. But when these particles collide with interstellar gas near the supernova remnant (SNR), they produce a telltale glow in gamma rays—the highest-energy light there is.

“Theorists think the highest energy cosmic ray protons in the Milky Way reach a million billion electron volts, or PeV energies,” said Ke Fang, an assistant professor of physics at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC), a research center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. “The precise nature of their sources, which we call PeVatrons, has been difficult to pin down.”

Fang, who led the study, performed the data analysis and developed the theory models. The research team identified a few suspected PeVatrons, including one at the center of our galaxy. Naturally, SNR top the list of candidates. Yet out of about 300 known remnants, only a few have been found to emit gamma rays with sufficiently high energies.

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Design and performance of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder telescope camera

The debut of a new detector has many “firsts”: the first assembly, the first shift, the first light, the first detection… But if there’s one thing that makes a debut official—sort of like a detector’s birth certificate—it’s the detailed description of how the detector was built and how it performs.

And this is achieved in a new paper by members of the Cherenkov Telescope Array Consortium, published in the Journal of Astronomical Telescopes, Instruments and Systems. The paper documents the design of the camera of the prototype Schwarzschild-Couder Telescope (pSCT), a medium-sized candidate telescope for the Cherenkov Telescope Array (CTA). The paper also includes performance metrics that show its potential as a very-high-energy gamma-ray detector and that have already been used to plan an upgrade, a project which is now well underway. Very high energy gamma rays are the highest energy photons in the universe and can unveil the physics of extreme objects, including black holes and possibly dark matter.

The pSCT uses novel dual-mirror optics, rather than more traditional single-mirror optics, and relies on high-speed electronics to cover CTA’s middle energy range from 80 GeV to 50TeV. This camera was developed by a team spanning multiple universities and co-led by UW–Madison physics professor Justin Vandenbroucke, who has been working on this project since 2009.

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