Discovering the Elusive: Neutrinos Now Within CERN's Grasp
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) have marked a significant breakthrough in particle physics, detecting elusive neutrinos for the first time within collider environments.
Neutrinos, subatomic particles that don’t readily interact with matter, have been notoriously difficult to observe. Yet, their omnipresence makes them crucial to our understanding of the universe. This detection has been a long-sought target for researchers, and CERN’s LHC has finally achieved it, thanks to the efforts of two major collaborations: FASER (Forward Search Experiment) and SND (Scattering and Neutrino Detector)@LHC.
Decades of Anticipation; Neutrino Detection Milestone
Until now, neutrinos had been observed mainly from natural sources like the sun, cosmic rays, and certain cosmic events. But never from particle colliders, where particles are smashed together at near-light speeds. This recent observation, as detailed in Physical Review Letters, ushers in a new era for experimental particle physics.
“We’ve known for a long time that neutrinos are abundant in proton colliders,” noted Cristovao Vilela of the SND@LHC Collaboration. “But the challenge has always been detecting them.”
Both FASER and SND@LHC developed innovative methods to detect these particles. Positioned strategically, FASER’s detector sits more than 400 meters from the renowned ATLAS experiment, in its own separate tunnel. “For over half a century, particle colliders detected every particle except neutrinos,” said Jonathan Lee Feng, co-spokesperson of FASER. “Our aim was to change that narrative.”
SND@LHC, on the other hand, employed a different approach. With a two-meter-long detector, it faced the challenge of filtering out background noise from millions of high-energy muons. Yet, by November 2022, they had recorded a whopping 95% of collision data delivered to them, observing neutrino events from the collider.
Beyond the Observation: What Lies Ahead
The implications of this discovery are vast. Not only do these findings clarify certain ambiguities in the Standard Model of particle physics, but they also provide a platform for a more in-depth understanding of matter’s basic building blocks.
The SND@LHC collaboration’s Vilela expressed optimism about the findings, noting, “Our measurements will contribute to a better understanding of colliding protons’ structure.”
A New Frontier in Particle Physics
The ongoing work by FASER and SND@LHC promises even more insights. Feng added, “With the full power of FASER, we will map out these high-energy neutrino interactions in detail. Plus, our upcoming Forward Physics Facility will enable us to detect millions more neutrinos.”
This groundbreaking work positions CERN’s LHC at the forefront of particle physics research. With the confirmed presence of neutrinos, future experiments hold promise for even more paradigm-shifting discoveries.
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