Sterile Neutrino Search At IceCube Neutrino Observatory Comes Up Empty

Posted: Aug 9 2016, 8:11am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Sterile Neutrino Search at IceCube Neutrino Observatory Comes up Empty
The IceCube Laboratory at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica. Credit: Erik Beiser, IceCube/NSF
  • Quest for Sterile Neutrino proves to be Barren

The quest for a sterile neutrino has proven to be a barren venture.

Scientists have been in search of a hypothetical particle known as a sterile neutrino. Yet with the results just in from a particle detector situated near the South Pole, they now know that no such thing exists.

The quest has proven to be a wild goose chase. Nothing of the sort actually exists in reality. If such a particle is discovered in the future, it will be a contribution to the earlier family portrait of neutrinos.

The puzzle that exists would have then been solved. Why there are only three known neutrinos remains a question to which there is no answer.

Also the dark matter found in the universe would be resolved if this neutrino were to be found. Then the imbalance between matter and antimatter would be restored too were this particle to be found in reality.

Neutrinos are like phantoms. These tiny particles have no mass whatsoever and only occasionally interact with matter. Over trillions of neutrinos will be finding their way through your body while you are reading this sentence.

There are three we know of today: the muon, the electron and what is known as tau.

There have been hints of a fourth type of neutrino. Yet it has not been found in reality. Termed the sterile neutrino, this particle only interacts with matter through gravity. Were this sterile neutrino discovered, a spanner would be thrown into the Standard Model.

A fourth neutrino would change the very picture we have built so far. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory which is situated near the South Pole has been the venue of experiments to discover the fourth neutrino. The neutrino has been called sterile since it does not interact with matter at all.

The only way of detecting such a neutrino is to catch it in the act of changing itself into other types of neutrinos. While several experiments have shown hypothetical proof of this special neutrino, it has never been observed in reality.

A recent study, published on August 9, 2016 in the journal Physical Review Letters, has pretty much dampened the enthusiasm of the scientists. Nowhere is this neutrino to be found in trial after trial. There is in fact 99% consensus now that such a particle simply has no existence of its own.

It is a purely hypothetical concept. While the appeal of such a particle is very high among scientists and laypersons alike, a beautiful hypothesis is often slain by an ugly fact.

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