Elusive neutrinos being measured more precisely

October 11th, 2011 - 5:09 pm ICT by IANS  

University of Massachusetts Washington, Oct 11 (IANS) Scientists, using one of the most sensitive detectors ever, are now measuring the flow of neutrinos reaching earth more precisely than ever before.

The detector probes matter at the most fundamental level and provides a powerful tool for directly observing the sun’s composition.

A neutrino is an electrically neutral, subatomic particle with no mass, able to pass through matter “like a bullet passing through a bank of fog”.

They are the byproducts of radioactive decay or nuclear reactions that take place in the sun, in nuclear reactors, or when cosmic rays hit atoms, reports the journal Physical Review Letters.

Physicists Laura Pocar, Andrea Cadonati and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, report that the Borexino instrument has now precisely measured the flux of beryllium seven (7Be) solar neutrino — abundant, low-energy particles once below the observable threshold.

“Borexino is the only detector capable of observing the entire spectrum of solar neutrinos at once. Our results, the culmination of 20 years of research, greatly narrow the observation precision,” Cadonati said, according to a Massachusetts statement.

Solar neutrinos are produced during fusion reactions at the sun’s core. As many as 65 billion of them stream out of the sun and hit every square centimetre of the earth’s surface every second.

The Borexino instrument, housed far beneath Italy’s Apennine mountains, detects neutrinos as they interact with an ultra-pure organic liquid scintillator at the centre of a large sphere surrounded by 2,000 tonnes of water.

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