Neutrinos

Neutrino  :  is a type of strange, weird, tiny, energetic particle, with neither mass nor electric charge, it is virtually an undetectable particle and one of the most illusive in the universe.

Scientists now believe that neutrinos fill our universe and rough calculations suggest that a hundred trillion neutrinos pass through our bodies every second.  Some can even pass unchanged pass right through the Earth and through giant clouds of interstellar gas and dust, without leaving a trace.  This unique ability allows neutrinos to carry messages from the far reaches of the universe. Indeed some neutrinos are so fantastically energetic, 'they carry a bigger punch than even the most intense gamma ray.' For this reason it is thought that neutrinos may originate from places such as  neutron stars, active galactic centers and exploding stars, or supernovas.  Some scientists even believe that the lower-energy neutrinos may comprise a large proportion of the mass in the universe.

 "The hope is that the particle that is almost nothing will tell us almost everything about the universe." Says Francis Halzen (theoretical physicist at University of Wisconsin-Madison).

Originally these particles were proposed by a man called Wolfgang Pauli in 1930 to make an equation balance.  These new particles were used to explain the results of radioactive decay experiments which appeared to be violating the conservation of energy.  The conclusion which Pauli drew from his experiments was that these particles must have had only very weak interactions with matter and that they must be extremely light.

Around three years later a man called Enrico Fermi gave them their name, 'neutrinos'.  As part of his theory of weak interaction he also conducted a detailed analysis of their properties.

It wasn't until 1956 that the first experimental evidence for neutrinos appeared, along with a strong indication that there could also be more than one species of neutrino.  

The first species of neutrino is associated with the electron in certain nuclear reactions.

The second species of neutrino is called the muon neutrino because of it's association with the muon, (a particle just like the electron except that it is much more massive). Both the electron and muon are called leptons one family of fundamental particles.

The third species of lepton, the tau was discovered in 1975 along with evidence of the corresponding neutrino, but until now has never been observed.

Source of info for this article: The Great Natrino Hunt  


A ten second shower of neutrinos from Supernova 1987A

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