SNO: solving the mystery of the missing neutrinos

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The end of an era came on 28 November 2006 when the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) finally stopped data-taking after eight exciting years of discoveries. During this time the Observatory saw evidence that neutrinos, produced in the fusion of hydrogen in the solar core, change flavour while passing through the Sun on their way to the Earth. This observation explained the longstanding puzzle as to why previous experiments had seen fewer solar neutrinos than predicted and confirmed that these elusive particles have mass. Solar neutrinos were first detected in Ray Davis's radiochemical experiment in 1967, for which discovery he shared ... continued below

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Jelley, Nick & Poon, Alan March 30, 2007.

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The end of an era came on 28 November 2006 when the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) finally stopped data-taking after eight exciting years of discoveries. During this time the Observatory saw evidence that neutrinos, produced in the fusion of hydrogen in the solar core, change flavour while passing through the Sun on their way to the Earth. This observation explained the longstanding puzzle as to why previous experiments had seen fewer solar neutrinos than predicted and confirmed that these elusive particles have mass. Solar neutrinos were first detected in Ray Davis's radiochemical experiment in 1967, for which discovery he shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics. Surprisingly he found only about a third of the number predicted from models of the Sun's output. This deficit, the so-called Solar Neutrino Problem, was confirmed by Kamiokande-II while other experiments saw related deficits of solar neutrinos. A possible explanation for this deficit, suggested by Gribov and Pontecorvo in 1969, was that some of the electron-type neutrinos, which are produced in the Sun, had ''oscillated'' into neutrinos that could not be detected in the Davis detector. The oscillation mechanism requires that neutrinos have non-zero mass. The unique advantage, which was pointed out by the late Herb Chen in 1985, of using heavy water (D{sub 2}O) to detect the neutrinos from {sup 8}B decays in the solar fusion process is that it enables both the number of electron-type and of all types of neutrinos to be measured. A comparison of the flux of electron-type neutrinos to that of all flavours could then reveal whether flavour transformation is the cause of the solar neutrino deficit. In heavy water neutrinos of all types can break a deuteron apart into its constituent proton and neutron (neutral-current reaction), while only electron-type neutrinos can change the deuteron into two protons and release an electron (charged-current reaction). SNO was designed by scientists from Canada, the USA and the UK to attain a detection rate of about 10 solar neutrinos per day using 1000 tonnes of heavy water. Neutrino interactions were detected by 9,456 photomultiplier tubes surrounding the heavy water, which was contained in a 12-m diameter acrylic sphere. This sphere was surrounded by 7000 tonnes of ultra-pure water to shield against radioactivity. Figure 1 shows the layout of the SNO detector, which is located about 2 km underground in Inco's Creighton nickel mine near Sudbury in Canada, to all but eliminate cosmic rays from reaching the detector. The pattern of hit photomultiplier tubes following the creation of an electron by an electron-type neutrino is shown in Figure 2.

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  • Journal Name: CERN Courier; Journal Volume: 47; Journal Issue: 4; Related Information: Journal Publication Date: May 2007

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  • Report No.: LBNL--62953
  • Grant Number: DE-AC02-05CH11231
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 910234
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc891221

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Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

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  • March 30, 2007

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  • Sept. 22, 2016, 2:13 a.m.

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  • Sept. 30, 2016, 12:44 p.m.

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Jelley, Nick & Poon, Alan. SNO: solving the mystery of the missing neutrinos, article, March 30, 2007; Berkeley, California. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc891221/: accessed November 20, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.