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Title: Cosmic ray backgrounds for dark matter indirect detection
Author: Mertsch, Philipp
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2010
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The identification of the relic particles which presumably constitute cold dark matter is a key challenge for astroparticle physics. Indirect methods for their detection using high energy astro- physical probes such as cosmic rays have been much discussed. In particular, recent ‘excesses’ in cosmic ray electron and positron fluxes, as well as in microwave sky maps, have been claimed to be due to the annihilation or decay of dark matter. In this thesis, we argue however that these signals are plagued by irreducible astrophysical backgrounds and show how plausible con- ventional physics can mimic the alleged dark matter signals. In chapter 1, we review evidence of, and possible particle candidates for, cold dark matter, as well as our current understanding of galactic cosmic rays and the state-of-the-art in indirect detection. All other chapters contain original work, mainly based on the author’s journal publications. In particular, in chapter 2, we consider the possibility that the rise in the positron fraction observed by the PAMELA satellite is due to the production through (hadronic) cosmic ray spallation and subsequent acceleration of positrons, in the same sources as the primary cosmic rays. We present a new (unpublished) analytical estimate of the range of possible fluctuations in the high energy electron flux due to the discreteness of plausible cosmic ray sources such as supernova remnants. Fitting our result for the total electron-positron flux measured by the Fermi satellite allows us to fix the only free parameter of the model and make an independent prediction for the positron fraction. Our explanation relies on a large number of supernova remnants nearby which are accelerating hadronic cosmic rays. Turning the argument around, we find encouraging prospects for the observation of neutrinos from such sources in km^3-scale detectors such as IceCube. Chapter 3 presents a test of this model by considering similar effects expected for nuclear secondary-to-primary ratios such as B/C. A rise predicted above O(100)GeV/n would be an unique confirmation of our explanation for a rising positron fraction and rule out the dark matter explanation. In chapter 4, we review the assumptions made in the extraction of the `WMAP haze' which has also been claimed to be due to electrons and positrons from dark matter annihilation in the Galactic centre region. We argue that the energy-dependence of their diffusion means that the extraction of the haze through fitting to templates of low frequency diffuse galactic radio emission is unreliable. The systematic effects introduced by this can, under specific circumstances, reproduce the residual, suggesting that the ‘haze’ may be just an artefact of the template subtraction. We present a summary and thoughts about further work in the epilogue.
Supervisor: Sarkar, Subir Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Astrophysics ; Astrophysics (theoretical) ; Particle physics ; Theoretical physics ; galactic cosmic rays ; dark matter indirect detection