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Neutrinos interact only very weakly, so they are extremely penetrating. The theoretical neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section, however, increases with increasing neutrino energy, and neutrinos with energies above 40 teraelectronvolts (TeV) are expected to be absorbed as they pass through the Earth. Experimentally, the cross-section has been determined only at the relatively low energies (below 0.4 TeV) that are available at neutrino beams from accelerators1,2. Here we report a measurement of neutrino absorption by the Earth using a sample of 10,784 energetic upward-going neutrino-induced muons. The flux of high-energy neutrinos transiting long paths through the Earth is attenuated compared to a reference sample that follows shorter trajectories. Using a fit to the two-dimensional distribution of muon energy and zenith angle, we determine the neutrino–nucleon interaction cross-section for neutrino energies 6.3–980 TeV, more than an order of magnitude higher than previous measurements. The measured cross-section is about 1.3 times the prediction of the standard model3, consistent with the expectations for charged- and neutral-current interactions. We do not observe a large increase in the cross-section with neutrino energy, in contrast with the predictions of some theoretical models, including those invoking more compact spatial dimensions4 or the production of leptoquarks5. This cross-section measurement can be used to set limits on the existence of some hypothesized beyond-standard-model particles, including leptoquarks.


Accepted version. Nature, Vol. 551 (November 30, 2017): 596-600. DOI. © 2017 Springer Nature Limited. Used with permission.

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A complete list of all the members in The IceCube Collaboration is available in the article text.

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