Licentiate thesis: The Sun as a laboratory for particle physics
Wednesday 14 June 2017
to 16:00 at
Carl Niblaeus (Stockholm University, Department of Physics)
In the paper attached to this thesis, Paper I, we have calculated the flux of neutrinos that emanate from cosmic ray collisions in the solar atmosphere. These neutrinos are created in the cascades that follow the primary collision and can travel from their production point to a detector on Earth, interacting with the solar material and oscillating on the way. The motivation is both a better understanding of the cosmic ray interactions in the solar environment but also the fact that this neutrino flux presents an almost irreducible background for the searches for neutrinos from annihilations between dark matter particles in the Sun’s core.
This interesting connection between neutrinos and dark matter make use of the Sun as a laboratory to investigate new models of particle physics. If dark matter consists of weakly interacting massive particles (WIMPs), the Sun will sweep up some of these WIMPs when it moves through the halo of dark matter that our galaxy lies in. These WIMPs will become gravitationally bound to the Sun and over time accumulate in the Sun’s core. In most models WIMPs can annihilate to Standard Model particles when encountering each other. The only particle that can make it out of the Sun without being absorbed is the neutrino. The buildup of WIMPs in the solar interior can therefore lead to a detectable flux of neutrinos.
Neutrino telescopes therefore search for an excess of neutrinos from the Sun. To be able to ensure that a detected flux is in fact coming from dark matter annihilations one must properly account for all other sources of neutrinos. At higher energies these are primarily neutrinos created in energetic collisions between cosmic rays and particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, but also the solar atmospheric neutrinos. The latter will be tougher to disentangle from a WIMP signal since they also come from the Sun.
We calculate in Paper I the creation of the neutrinos in the solar atmosphere and propagate these neutrinos to a detector on Earth, including oscillations and interactions in the Sun and vacuum oscillations between the Sun and the Earth. We find that the expected flux is small but potentially detectable by current neutrino telescopes, although further studies are needed to fully ascertain the possibility of discovery as well as how to properly disentangle this from a potential WIMP-induced neutrino signal.