Astrophysics

Neutrino Bursts

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Science  30 Nov 2001:
Vol. 294, Issue 5548, pp. 1793
DOI: 10.1126/science.294.5548.1793b

Many gamma ray bursts (GRBs) are modeled as relativistic fireballs from the collapse of the core of a massive star. For these GRBs, the fireball can be collimated into jets that burst through the stellar envelope and produce gamma rays. Mészáros and Waxman have taken this model and investigated the possibility that a neutrino burst is produced before the GRB. They show that a relativistic jet can be altered by internal shock waves as it makes its way to the edge of the stellar envelope. The shock waves can accelerate protons that interact with x-ray photons to produce teraelectronvolt electron and muon neutrinos. In addition to predicting a neutrino burst before an observable GRB, their model suggests that a neutrino burst may be produced from a “dark” GRB (in which the jets generated from the collapse do not break through the stellar envelope). Thus, if astronomers could observe the neutrino burst, they would be able to detect and count both dark and bright GRBs, providing a rate of star collapse at cosmological distances in the universe. Of course, neutrino detection is difficult, but the authors predict that either type of GRB, occurring as far away as a redshift of one, will produce a characteristic neutrino signal that should register on a 1-cubic-kilometer detector, such as the AMANDA experiment that is currently being constructed.—LR

Phys. Rev. Lett.87, 171102 (2001).

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