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The IceCube Observatory

Graphics of IceCubeGraphics of the IceCube Observatory. Credit: IceCube Collaboration

The IceCube observatory is a Cherenkov detector and an air shower array located at the geographic SouthPole. The submerged Cherenkov detector is currently the world’s largest neutrino telescope. Main objectives of the experiment are the discovery and exploration of Galactic and extragalactic sources of high-energy neutrino emission. However, the detector is also well suited for the search for dark matter (WIMPs), the measurement of cosmic rays, neutrino oscillations and several other topical questions in particle and astroparticle physics.

The submerged “In-Ice” detector consists of 86 strings each equipped with 60 optical sensors (photomultipliers) which instrument a volume of 1 km3 of clear glacial ice between 1500 m and 2500 m. Neutrinos are reconstructed indirectly by the Cherenkov light emitted from secondary charged particles like muons and electrons which are generated in the neutrino interactions. Additionally, over 60 water tanks euipped with PMTs sit at the surface and act as an air shower array on the same footprint as the In-Ice detector, allowing for unique coincident event studies. More information on the experiment and its physics can be found on the IceCube homepage.


After the discovery of a cosmic high-energy neutrino flux in 2013, a next-generation neutrino telescope at the South Pole, IceCube-Gen2, is now in the planning stage that will provide extended physics potential both at the highest and lower energies. The high-energy part of IceCube-Gen2 will enclose the current detector with ~140 additional strings each equipped with up to 80 optical sensors, thereby instrumenting 5-10 km3 of ice. Its main mission is the exploration of the high-energy universe with neutrinos.

The low-energy part, PINGU, will consist of ~40 closely spaced strings instrumenting a volume of several Megatons of ice. The high density of optical sensors will lower the detection threshold for neutrinos to a few GeV. The main goal of PINGU is the determination of the neutrino mass hierarchy via the measurement of the oscillation pattern of atmospheric neutrinos. In addition, it will also extend the sensitivity of IceCube-Gen2 to low-mass WIMPs, supernova neutrinos or GeV neutrinos from gamma-ray bursts.

Activities at ECAP

Render of a mDOMRender of mDOM concept with upper PMT holding structure removed.

We are involved in the data analysis of the running detector, in particular with respect to searches for sources of cosmic high-energy neutrino emission, and participates in the development of efficient neutrino reconstruction techniques.

For IceCube-Gen2, we are developing an innovative new optical sensor (mDOM) which consists of 24 3″ photomultiplier tubes and provides significantly improved detection properties for Cherenkov light. In parallel, we are working on simulations of detectors equipped with mDOMs and are developing event selection and reconstruction algorithms.