Magazine article USA TODAY

Supernovas and Black Holes Could Offer Clues to Subatomic Particles

Magazine article USA TODAY

Supernovas and Black Holes Could Offer Clues to Subatomic Particles

Article excerpt

The next time a distant supernova glitters in the night sky, scientists may be able to solve a mystery about subatomic particles on Earth. Richard Boyd, professor of physics and astronomy, Ohio State University, Columbus, and his colleagues have devised a way to use the speed of material streaming outward from a supernova to measure the mass of an elusive subatomic particle known as the neutrino. Knowing the mass of this particle may help scientists better understand nuclear reactions inside stars, as well as the so-called missing dark matter of the universe.

Scientists currently believe that three types of neutrinos exist, each with a different mass about 10,000 times less than the mass of an electron. If so, heavier neutrinos ejected from a supernova will take longer to reach Earth than lighter neutrinos.

Boyd describes neutrinos as the key to scientists' understanding of the nuclear reactions that take place in stars. According to current theories, millions of neutrinos should be radiating out of the sun, or other stars, every second. "If we don't know the mass of neutrinos, then we can't use that information to test our theories, These extremely small masses are hard to measure here on Earth, but if we could measure the differences in flight time of neutrinos from a supernova, we could improve our measurements a million times over. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.