Astroparticle Physics with the IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole


Astroparticle Physics revolves around phenomena that involve (astro)physics under the most extreme conditions. Cosmic explosions, involving black holes with masses a billion times greater than the mass of the Sun, accelerate particles to velocities close to the speed of light and display a variety of relativistic effects. The produced high-energy particles may be detected on Earth and as such can provide us insight in the physical processes underlying these cataclysmic events which happen at the edges of our observable Universe.

The IceCube project

Currently the world's largest neutrino observatory (IceCube) at the South Pole is observing the Universe to study these phenomena and the IIHE(ULB-VUB) institute in Brussels houses one of the main European analysis centra. As such there now exists the possibility to participate as a student in this new exciting field of research, which combines the insights of Astrophysics, Particle Physics and Cosmology.

The IceCube group in Brussels

The IceCube group at the IIHE currently consists of 4 permanent staff members, 3 postdocs, 7 PhD students and various master students, which offers a very lively and stimulating international environment. As indicated below, the research performed in Brussels covers a rather wide area which offers various topics well suited for a master thesis.

Themes for master thesis research work

At the IIHE(ULB-VUB) we are involved in the following (astro)physics subjects
a) High-energy neutrinos from cosmic point sources
b) Neutrino signals from dark matter particles
c) Detection of extremely energetic cosmic neutrinos
d) Composition of high-energy cosmic particles
e) Neutrinos from (explosive) cosmic transient phenomena (i.e. Gamma Ray Bursts and flares of Active Galactic Nuclei)

The latter are the most violent cosmic phenomena that have been observed to date and the current consensus is that these processes involve neutron stars and Black Holes.

Also in the area of detector development there are possibilities to work in our group. These activities are related to a foreseen extension of the IceCube observatory. The intention of this new detector is to open up research in the field of the most energetic cosmic particles (i.e. GZK neutrinos) by means of produced radio signals and surface veto detectors.

In case you are interested to participate in one of these projects in view of your master thesis, feel free to contact (one of) the staff members mentioned below, where the main research subject is indicated between brackets.