Astronomers Track a Neutrino Back to the Source. Where a Black Hole Tore Apart a Star

Neutrinos are notoriously finicky particles.  Hundreds of trillions pass through a person’s body every second, yet they hardly seem to interact with anything (though they actually do a lot).  Even more hard to find are the “high energy” neutrinos that are believed to be formed as the outcome of some of the most violent events in the universe.  Now, researchers using NASA’s Swift telescope have found a high energy neutrino for the first time from one type of those ultra-violent events – a tidal disruption.  But something was a little bit off about it.

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Neutrinos Have a Newly Discovered Method of Interacting With Matter, Opening up Ways to Find Them

The neutrino is a confounding little particle that is believed to have played a major role in the evolution of our Universe. They also possess very little mass, have no charge, and interact with other particles only through the weak nuclear force and gravity. As such, finding evidence of their interactions is extremely difficult and requires advanced facilities that are shielded to prevent interference.

One such facility is the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) where an international team of researchers are conducting the COHERENT particle physics experiment. Recently, researchers at COHERENT achieved a major breakthrough when they found the first evidence of a new kind of neutrino interaction, which effectively demonstrates a process known as coherent elastic neutrino-nuclear scattering (CEvNS).

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Neutrinos Have Played a Huge Role in the Evolution of the Universe

It’s often said that we haven’t yet detected dark matter particles. That isn’t quite true. We haven’t detected the particles that comprise cold dark matter, but we have detected neutrinos. Neutrinos have mass and don’t interact strongly with light, so they are a form of dark matter. While they don’t solve the mystery of dark matter, they do play a role in the shape and evolution of our universe.

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Neutrinos prove the Sun is doing a second kind of fusion in its core

Like all stars, our Sun is powered by the fusion of hydrogen into heavier elements. Nuclear fusion is not only what makes stars shine, it is also a primary source of the chemical elements that make the world around us. Much of our understanding of stellar fusion comes from theoretical models of atomic nuclei, but for our closest star, we also have another source: neutrinos created in the Sun’s core.

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Astronomers are ready and waiting to detect the neutrino blast from a nearby supernova explosion like Betelgeuse

When giant stars die in impressive supernova blasts, about 99% of the energy released goes into producing a flood of neutrinos. These tiny, ghostly particles slip through tons of matter like it’s not even there. But a new generation of detectors will be able to catch them, telling us of the inner machinations of the deaths of stars.

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Detecting the Neutrinos From a Supernova That’s About to Explode

Neutrinos are puzzling things. They’re tiny particles, almost massless, with no electrical charge. They’re notoriously difficult to detect, too, and scientists have gone to great lengths to detect them. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory, for instance, tries to detect neutrinos with strings of detectors buried down to a depth of 2450 meters (8000 ft.) in the dark Antarctic ice.

How’s that for commitment.

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