June 1, 2013 Issue

Physics To Go 136 - Neutrino astrophysics

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Physics in Your World

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Neutrinos in the Sun image
image credit: R. Svoboda, UC Davis, Super-Kamiokande Collaboration; image source; larger image

Astronomy Picture of the Day: Neutrinos in the Sun

This image of the sun was made with neutrinos, which are tiny, almost-massless particles that move at nearly the speed of light. Neutrinos are created in nuclear reactions, and were first detected near a nuclear reactor.

The nuclear reactions that power the sun produce lots of neutrinos. In fact, billions of them per second are passing through your hand right now.

For more about the image, see Astronomy Picture of the Day: Neutrinos in the Sun. To learn how the measurement of solar neutrinos led to a change in fundamental physics, check out this PBS webpage.

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Physics at Home

What Is a Neutrino…And Why Do They Matter?

Check out this PBS webpage for an introduction to neutrinos. To learn more about the different types of neutrinos, see this University of California page.


From Physics Research

Supernova 1987a image
image © Australian Astronomical Observatory, photograph by David Malin; image source; larger image

Supernova 1987a

Here is a before-and-after view of a part of the sky where a supernova appeared in 1987. A supernova is a catastrophic explosion in a large star. Two hours before this supernova was seen through telescopes, it was announced by a spike in the count of neutrinos in several detectors on Earth. The arrow points to the star before it exploded.

Neutrinos are tiny, uncharged, nearly-massless particles that travel at almost the speed of light. A supernova produces a vast number of neutrinos; in fact, most of the energy of a supernova is given off in neutrinos. To learn more about neutrinos, see Physics at Home and Worth a Look just below.

To learn about Supernova 1987a, visit Hyperphysics and Physics Central, and for much more detail see AAVSO.

Worth a Look

The Brightest Supernova Ever

Speaking of supernovas...here's the biggest supernova explosion ever observed. It was the death of an extraordinarily massive star, but one located in a galaxy about 240,000,000 light-years away.

In fact, we have a similar star in our own galaxy, and only 7500 light-years away. You can see an image of this monster here.

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