Background studies for acoustic neutrino detection at the South Pole
The detection of acoustic signals from ultra-high energy neutrino interactions is a promising method to measure the flux of cosmogenic neutrinos expected on Earth. The energy threshold for this process depends strongly on the absolute noise level in the target material. The South Pole Acoustic Test Setup (SPATS), deployed in the upper part of four boreholes of the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, has monitored the noise in Antarctic ice at the geographic South Pole for more than two years down to 500 m depth. The noise is very stable and Gaussian distributed. Lacking an in situ calibration up to now, laboratory measurements have been used to estimate the absolute noise level in the 10-50 kHz frequency range to be smaller than 20 mPa. Using a threshold trigger, sensors of the South Pole Acoustic Test Setup registered acoustic events in the IceCube detector volume and its vicinity. Acoustic signals from refreezing IceCube holes and from anthropogenic sources have been used to test the localization of acoustic events. An upper limit on the neutrino flux at energies E-v>10(11) GeV is derived from acoustic data taken over eight months. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.