The Netherlands eScience Center has announced to fund a new Path-Finding Project led by Dr. Dorothea Samtleben from the Leiden Institute of Physics (LION). This project aims to make the processing of detection signals more efficient for the KM3NeT neutrino telescope, which is currently under construction in the Mediterranean Sea. High processing efficiency is vital for finding lower-energy neutrinos and the ability to alert other observatories in case of a special astronomical event.
Neutrinos are almost massless particles that have extremely little interaction with anything, so they undisturbedly speed through the Universe, even permeating stars. So when they are produced inside a star, they smoothly travel outwards and eventually reach Earth with all information still intact about their creation. Also, neutrinos have zero charge, so they are not deflected by any magnetic field and point directly to their origin. This makes these tiny particles a valuable source of information for astrophysicists, to study the spectacular events that produce them.
Unfortunately, their properties also make neutrinos incredibly hard to detect. Scientists need large volumes of material to hunt them down, like for example the water of the Mediterranean Sea where the KM3NeT neutrino telescope is under construction. Once in a while, one out of billions of neutrinos interacts with the water in the vicinity of the detector, and produces a light signal, which gets recorded. The trick is to process these signals and deduce the incoming particle’s characteristics as efficient as possible. When this happens fast enough, even real-time observation is possible. In that scenario the computers at KM3NeT can immediately alert their counterparts at optical observatories about a special astronomical event, so they’re able to photograph it. And they can extract online accurate information on the neutrino event candidates, to improve their selection efficiencies also for lower-energy neutrinos.
‘For real-time observation we need professional computing expertise to efficiently address the filtering of our huge data volume,’ says Samtleben. ‘The actual value of this grant is an eScience engineer to work with us for a full year. But mostly we’re establishing this first connection with the eScience center, to build a fruitful collaboration where their expertise and tools will enhance the science potential of the KM3NeT neutrino telescope. And they get a great playground to explore their tools and expertise. This could lead to a long-lasting partnership.’