An Indirect Search for Weakly Interacting Massive Particles in the Sun Using Upward-going Muons in NOvA

Principato, Cristiana, Physics - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Group, Robert, AS-Physics, University of Virginia

I present the first Dark Matter search results using the full data set collected with the upward-going muon trigger in NOvA.

Weakly Interactive Massive Particles (WIMPs) are a theoretical non-baryonic form of Dark Matter. The nature of Dark Matter is one of the most exciting open questions in modern physics. Though its existence can be inferred by astrophysical evidence, its properties are not yet understood. If we assume that Dark Matter particles can produce Standard Model particles through their interactions, an indirect search can help shed light on this mystery.

The NOvA collaboration has built a 14 kton, fine-grained, low-Z, total absorption tracking calorimeter at an off-axis angle to the NuMI neutrino beam. Even though the detector is optimized to observe electron neutrino appearance from a muon neutrino beam, it has a unique potential for more exotic searches given its excellent granularity and energy resolution and relatively low-energy neutrino thresholds. In fact, with an efficient upward-going muon trigger and sufficient background suppression offline, NOvA is capable of a competitive indirect Dark Matter search for low-mass WIMPs.

The idea of the upward-going muon trigger is first to select high-quality muon tracks, then use the timing information of all of the hits of each track to estimate directionality. In this way, the background flux is suppressed by more than a factor of 10^5 at trigger level to a rate of approximately 1 Hz. To further optimize this search, we use only upward-going muons that point to the Sun, so our search occurs at night when the Sun is on the other side of the Earth. This strategy also allows us to use the time when the Sun is above the horizon as a control region to estimate the background. Ultimately, implementation of a cut based and maximum likelihood analysis provides a powerful tool for rejecting background and selecting a sample of neutrino-induced upward-going muons.

The overall background rejection power achieved by the analysis is substantial and impressive. Starting with approximately 150,000 events per second, we reduced it to 40 events per year. Since no statistically significant excess was found, a 90\% C.L. upper limit on the expected muon flux of upward-going muons has been set using the upper limit on the number of events given the number of observed events in the signal region. Lastly, by assuming the theory behind the upward-going muon flux, a limit on the WIMP-nucleon spin-dependent cross-section in the Sun was estimated.

Although the limits on the spin-dependent cross-section do not appear to be competitive with previous indirect Dark Matter searches, the upward-going muon flux limits are promising. The upward-going muon flux limits could extend these results to a broader class of models that are not specific to the dark matter theory but produce upward-going muons, leading to competitive results.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
NOvA, Dark Matter, Upward-going muon, Exotics
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