Amsterdam, The Netherlands (headquarters); detectors off the shores of Italy and France

UNISA (Italy)

KM3NeT is a next generation neutrino telescope aimed at detecting very high energy neutrinos from astrophysical sources (such as active nuclei of galaxies, supermassive spinning black holes, supernovae and their remnants) to study the physical processes that govern such amazing gigantic objects. In addition, KM3NeT studies neutrinos produced by cosmic particles that impact the Earth atmosphere to investigate the neutrino mass ordering, a fundamental question in particle physics.

The scientific challenge

Neutrinos are very elusive particles that can cross the whole Earth undisturbed. Detectors with a large target mass are required to witness neutrino interactions. KM3NeT is instrumenting volumes larger than one cubic kilometer in seawater to measure the charged particles produced in neutrino interactions. Operating electronic devices at more than 3000 m depth in a harsh environment of high pressure, strong currents and with the chemical activity of seawater, has the complexity level of a space mission. The large overburden of water is needed to screen the highly sensitive detectors from daylight and the continuous flow of cosmic rays from above: indeed KM3NeT detectors are in a most favourable location to detect neutrinos that come from our Galaxy and cross the Earth. So far, the IceCube detector, taking data for several years, has measured a sizable flux of very high energy neutrinos, but only one neutrino has been related to a known source. KM3NeT aims at establishing a firm correlation between emitters of highly energetic photons and the neutrino flux, effectively opening the exciting research field of neutrino astronomy.

The Impact

KM3NeT was conceived since the beginning as a facility for multimessenger astronomy: very high energy neutrinos are expected to come from galactic or intergalactic astrophysical sources, and hence need to be correlated with observations by optical telescopes, radiotelescopes gamma-ray and gravitational wave detectors. KM3NeT also aims at sharing and/or co-developing techniques for the simulation and characterization of interactions of very high energy particles with the Earth atmosphere. Advanced techniques such as Machine Learning at various levels of event reconstruction and analysis are being actively pursued as they can enhance the discovery of potential feeble signals in highly noisy environments, and KM3NeT is interested in joining forces with other Collaborations to boost the development of these technologies.