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A Fermilab First: Detecting Oscillating Neutrinos

Aug 10

An announcement at last week’s American Physical Society’s Division of Particles and Fields conference revealed that Fermilab’s NOvA experiment has for the first time observed oscillating neutrinos, which have long been predicted but — as a case even more special than observing neutrinos in general, not an easy task — never before detected. The research team fired

trillions of of muon neutrinos from an accelerator at the Fermilab, outside Chicago. The neutrinos travel 500 miles through Earth’s crust to a detector at Ash River, Minnesota. There, scientists were able to filter through millions of cosmic ray strikes and hone in on neutrino interactions. The arriving neutrinos featured some electron neutrinos, suggesting they had oscillated along their path through Earth. “Basically, it shows that we know what we’re doing,” said Patricia Vahle, associate professor of physics at the College of William & Mary.

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