This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).
The IceCube neutrino observatory was designed to detect high energy neutrinos from astrophysical sources and to search for indirect evidence of dark matter in the solar neighborhood. The observatory consists of a three dimensional array of photosensors buried deep in the Antarctic ice cap, with 59 of the planned 86 strings of sensors now deployed and operational. We are using data collected by IceCube to search for ultrahigh energy tau neutrinos. Tau neutrinos are produced when electron and muon neutrinos from astrophysical sources oscillate as they travel to us, but unlike electron and muon neutrinos, tau neutrinos are not produced in significant numbers in cosmic ray air showers in the Earth's atmosphere. Tau neutrinos are thus essentially guaranteed to come from astrophysical sources, and observing even a few tau neutrinos would tell us a great deal about astrophysical accelerators of cosmic rays and neutrinos. We have led the design effort for the new DeepCore extension to IceCube, which will be completely deployed at the South Pole in early 2010. Using IceCube and DeepCore, we will observe neutrino oscillations at higher energies than ever before, measure the spectrum of atmospheric electron neutrinos, search for sources of neutrinos in the Galactic plane, and search for dark matter in the Sun's gravitational well.
Students and postdoctoral scholars working on this project receive strong scientific and educational preparation in the techniques of particle astrophysics, high energy physics, and the mining of large data sets. Our graduate and undergraduate students work closely with scientists around the world, fostering international scientific collaboration. Undergraduate students conducting research with us have received awards such as Goldwater Scholarships and are enrolled in graduate programs at institutions such as UC Berkeley. We also run the Physics and Astronomy for Women program to help remedy the under representation of women in these fields. Beyond the field of particle astrophysics, we use our research with IceCube in a professional development workshop for high school science teachers, offered in conjunction with other particle astrophysics faculty at Penn State.