Real-time detection of neutrinos from the distant Universe

Observing processes that are inaccessible to optical telescopes
Image: Artistic (and unrealistic) view of the ANTARES detector and its environment. ANTARES is one of three pilot projects exploring the technologies, building and deploying smaller scale prototype telescopes designed to operate at depths ranging from 2500 to 4500 m. It is currently the largest neutrino telescope at the Northern hemispere.

A new era in the exploration of the Universe has begun. The distant Universe has so far only been accessible to us via photons of different wavelengths. But with the recent discovery of high-energetic extraterrestrial neutrinos new and unique opportunities arise to observe processes that are inaccessible to optical telescopes.

The KM3NeT neutrino telescope, currently under construction In the Mediterranean Sea, enables researchers to fully exploit this new opportunity. The Mediterranean Sea appears to be an ideal place for this future installation: it provides water of excellent optical properties at the right depth and excellent shore-based infrastructure for marine operations and on-shore data processing. Light created by particles in neutrino interactions in the Earth or in water is collected with a large 3-dimensional grid of sensitive photo detectors. All information from the detectors is sent to shore for further filtering and processing.

The current hardware and time constraints do not allow the most detailed processing of the information come from the detectors. This means that not all interesting event signatures will be stored. Current algorithms focus on the selection of specific signatures in the hit correlations which are expected from high energetic interactions. If we can enhance the strict filtering to a full online event reconstruction, so that we can retrieve accurate information on the potential neutrino candidates in real time, the data could be recorded more efficiently.

An accurate online reconstruction of the detailed event properties can also provide interesting neutrino triggers or feedback of external triggers to other astronomical facilities like optical or gamma ray observatories. At these observatories these signals can immediately be followed up to not miss out on interesting events in the Universe.


  • Dorothea Samtleben
  • Hanno Spreeuw
    Netherlands eScience Center
  • Ben van Werkhoven