An All-Sky, Three-Flavor Search for Neutrinos from Gamma-Ray Bursts with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory
Hellauer, Robert Eugene
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Ultra high energy cosmic rays (UHECRs), defined by energy greater than 10^18 eV, have been observed for decades, but their sources remain unknown. Protons and heavy ions, which comprise cosmic rays, interact with galactic and intergalactic magnetic fields and, consequently, do not point back to their sources upon measurement. Neutrinos, which are inevitably produced in photohadronic interactions, travel unimpeded through the universe and disclose the directions of their sources. Among the most plausible candidates for the origins of UHECRs is a class of astrophysical phenomena known as gamma-ray bursts (GRBs). GRBs are the most violent and energetic events witnessed in the observable universe. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, located in the glacial ice 1450 m to 2450 m below the South Pole surface, is the largest neutrino detector in operation. IceCube detects charged particles, such as those emitted in high energy neutrino interactions in the ice, by the Cherenkov light radiated by these particles. The measurement of neutrinos of 100 TeV energy or greater in IceCube correlated with gamma-ray photons from GRBs, measured by spacecraft detectors, would provide evidence of hadronic interaction in these powerful phenomena and confirm their role in ultra high energy cosmic ray production. This work presents the first IceCube GRB-neutrino coincidence search optimized for charged-current interactions of electron and tau neutrinos as well as neutral-current interactions of all neutrino flavors, which produce nearly spherical Cherenkov light showers in the ice. These results for three years of data are combined with the results of previous searches over four years of data optimized for charged-current muon neutrino interactions, which produce extended Cherenkov light tracks. Several low significance events correlated with GRBs were detected, but are consistent with the background expectation from atmospheric muons and neutrinos. The combined results produce limits that place the strongest constraints thus far on models of neutrino and UHECR production in GRB fireballs.