Limit on the diffuse flux of ultrahigh energy tau neutrinos with the surface detector of the Pierre Auger Observatory
Data collected at the Pierre Auger Observatory are used to establish an upper limit on the diffuse flux of tau neutrinos in the cosmic radiation. Earth-skimming ντ may interact in the Earth’s crust and produce a τ lepton by means of charged-current interactions. The τ lepton may emerge from the Earth and decay in the atmosphere to produce a nearly horizontal shower with a typical signature, a persistent electromagnetic component even at very large atmospheric depths. The search procedure to select events induced by τ decays against the background of normal showers induced by cosmic rays is described. The method used to compute the exposure for a detector continuously growing with time is detailed. Systematic uncertainties in the exposure from the detector, the analysis, and the involved physics are discussed. No τ neutrino candidates have been found. For neutrinos in the energy range 2×10¹⁷ eV<Eν<2×10¹⁹ eV, assuming a diffuse spectrum of the form Eν⁻², data collected between 1 January 2004 and 30 April 2008 yield a 90% confidence-level upper limit of E2νdNντ/dEν<9×10⁻⁸ GeV cm⁻² s⁻¹ sr⁻¹.