Going underground in Vienna

9 November 2023
TAUP 2023 participants
Serious science Participants enjoying a light-hearted moment during one of the daily plenaries. Credit: HEPHY

From 28 August to 1 September, the 18th International Conference on Topics in Astroparticle and Underground Physics took place at the University of Vienna, organised by HEPHY/Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW), and attracting about 450 participants. An extensive offer of parallel sessions each afternoon spanned direct dark-matter detection, advances in gravitational-wave (GW) searches, neutrino physics, astrophysics and cosmology, cosmic rays and astroparticle physics, as well as intertrack sessions on two or more subjects. A broad stage was also given to outreach and education, featuring science-communication projects from around the world, open science and masterclasses.

The conference provided an excellent review of the status of scientific questions being addressed by experiments in underground labs, including the latest constraints on dark matter from PandaX, LUX-ZEPLIN, SuperCDMS, CRESST and XENONnT. The various techniques for studying dark matter indirectly, for example via cosmic radiation, were reviewed, as well as direct searches at accelerator facilities. The many and diverse efforts ongoing worldwide to understand the nature of neutrinos were covered comprehensively, including the parametrisation of their mixing properties, their absolute mass, whether neutrinos are their own antiparticle, and their role in the early and late universe and in supernova explosions. Two plenary presentations focused on recent highlights in the field: IceCube’s confirmation of neutrinos from the galactic plane, and evidence of a GW background at nanohertz frequencies measured with pulsar timing arrays (CERN Courier September/October 2023 p7). Others summarised the status of cosmology in theory and experiment, cosmic-ray physics and the detection of GWs.

Among participants was Arthur McDonald, co-recipient of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, who gave a talk “Using messengers from outer space to understand our universe and its evolution” to a packed audience of all ages in the Festsaal ÖAW. He also celebrated his 80th birthday during the conference, earning a big round of applause.

A total of 110 posters were presented, more than half from early-career scientists. The five winners were: Korbinian Urban (TUM) for “TRISTAN: A novel detector for searching keV-sterile neutrinos at the KATRIN experiment”; Christoph Wiesinger (TUM) for “TAXO – Towards an ultra-low background semiconductor detector for IAXO”; Steffen Turkat (TU Dresden) for “Low-background radioactivity counting at the most sensitive HPGE detector in Germany”; Angelina Kinast (TUM) for “First results on 170 enrichment of CaWO4 crystals for spin-dependent DM search with CRESST”; and Krystal Alfonso (Virginia Tech) for “Analysis techniques for the search of neutrinoless double-beta decay of Te-130 with CUORE”.

The next edition of TAUP will take place in 2025 in Chengdu, China.

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