Atmospheric Muons and Neutrinos

  • Maurizio Spurio
Part of the Astronomy and Astrophysics Library book series (AAL)


Muons are the most abundant charged particles arriving at sea level and the only ones able to penetrate deeply underground. The reason stems from their small energy loss, their relatively long lifetime, and their small interaction cross-section. The flux of muons with energy >1 GeV at sea level is on the order of 200 particles/(m2 s). In this chapter, starting from the production of secondary nucleons and charged mesons by primary CRs interactions with atmospheric nuclei, we derive the energy spectra of atmospheric muons and atmospheric neutrinos. Atmospheric muons can penetrate up to ∼12 km of water. The knowledge of the underground muon flux is important for evaluating the background in searches for rare events in underground laboratories, as the proton decay predicted by Grand Unified Theories. The first generation of underground experiments immediately realized that atmospheric neutrinos represent the irreducible background. Because of the close relation between muon and neutrino production, the parameters characterizing the muon spectrum can provide important information on the atmospheric neutrino flux. These early searches for rare phenomena predicted by GUT theories failed, but these experiments discovered an unexpected phenomenon: the disappearance of atmospheric neutrino, explained by neutrino oscillations. The high-precision measurements of the oscillation parameters of atmospheric neutrinos represent the primary contribution of astroparticle experiments to particle physics, successively confirmed by accelerator experiments.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maurizio Spurio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physics and Astronomy, and INFNUniversity of BolognaBolognaItaly

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