Time Sensitive Searches for Electromagnetic Counterparts to High Energy Neutrinos

Open Access
Turley, Colin
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
May 31, 2019
Committee Members:
  • Derek Brindley Fox, Dissertation Advisor/Co-Advisor
  • Douglas Cowen, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Derek Brindley Fox, Committee Chair/Co-Chair
  • Khota Murase, Committee Member
  • G. Jogesh Babu, Outside Member
  • Richard Wallace Robinett, Program Head/Chair
  • Multimessenger Astrophysics
  • Astrophysics
  • High-energy physics
  • Gaussian Processes
  • Neutrino Astrophysics
  • gamma-ray astrophysics
  • gamma ray bursts
  • blazars
  • quasars
  • active galaxies
  • Swift satellite
  • Fermi satellite
We present the results of multiple electromagnetic searches for counterparts of high energy neutrinos detected by the IceCube and ANTARES neutrino observatories. A long standing problem in astrophysics is the cosmic ray origin problem. Due to their electric charge, cosmic rays deflect in the interstellar and intergalactic magnetic fields, obfuscating their origins. Similarly, the origins of high energy neutrinos are largely unknown, with only one positively identified source, the blazar TXS 0506+056. Multimessenger astrophysics offers a method to discover the sources of high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos. The mechanisms that produce cosmic rays and neutrinos are very likely to also produce high energy γ-rays. Coincident searches for γ-rays and neutrinos have the potential to reveal the sources of high energy cosmic rays and neutrinos. Such searches have already borne fruit, with the coincident detection of TXS 0506+056. This thesis details several searches for ν+γ transients, their results, and what they may indicate for future searches. The first search detailed is a blazar flare analysis, looking for neutrinos coincident with TeV γ-rays from several bright northern blazars. This search found a statistical excess of neutrinos during blazar flares, but indicated that the blazar Markarian 421 is a strong candidate for either detecting or limiting neutrino emission from blazars. The second and third projects utilized the Fermi-LAT γ-ray data to search for electromagnetic counterparts to high energy neutrinos. These searches both looked for a population of subthreshold ν+γ transients, and for an excess of individually high significance ν+γ transients. Using neutrino data from the IceCube 40 and 59 string datasets, we found no evidence of a subthreshold population of ν+γ transients, and no individually high significance events. We did observe a trend for IC59 neutrinos to arrive in regions of the sky that were TeV bright (p=7%) and would like to see if this behavior persists in other neutrino datasets. Our search with archival ANTARES data likewise found no subthreshold population of ν+γ transients. In parallel with these searches, we also performed X-ray followup to IceCube detections of likely cosmic neutrinos using the Swift satellite. These searches are important to the field of multimessenger astrophysics as they are what led to the detection of the neutrino emitting blazar TXS 0506+056. Targeted coincidence searches, especially time sensitive searches, are essential to finding more neutrino sources and identifying the sources of high-energy cosmic rays.