Special Perspectives

Neutrino Astrophysics: A New Tool for Exploring the Universe

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Science  05 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5808, pp. 63-65
DOI: 10.1126/science.1136638

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In the past four decades a new type of astronomy has emerged, where instead of looking up into the sky, “telescopes” are buried miles underground or deep under water or ice and search not for photons (that is, light), but rather for particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos are nearly massless particles that interact very weakly with matter. The detection of neutrinos emitted by the Sun and by a nearby supernova provided direct tests of the theory of stellar evolution and led to modifications of the standard model describing the properties of elementary particles. At present, several very large neutrino detectors are being constructed, aiming at the detection of the most powerful sources of energy and particles in the universe. The hope is that the detection of neutrinos from these sources, which are extra-Galactic and are most likely powered by mass accretion onto black holes, will not only allow study of the sources, but, much like solar neutrinos, will also provide new information about fundamental properties of matter.

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