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Important Step for Proposed Sterile Neutrino Experiment

An ambitious plan to add a new angle to the hunt for dark matter has passed an important landmark. A collaboration of particle physicists and theorists has proposed an experiment to try and create ‘sterile’ neutrinos with the so-called Super Proton Synchrotron (SPS). Leiden physicist Alexey Boyarsky was among 15 authors of the initial letter of intent that resulted in the creation of the collaboration. The SPS is part of the particle lab CERN in Geneva. The SPS council has now endorsed the experiment, meaning that the proposal will go into a three year process of testing. If the CERN council finally approves, the 185 million euro Search for Hidden Particles (SHiP) Experiment will kick-off in 2026.

Boyarsky is on a quest to unravel the nature of one of the most mysterious phenomena in the Universe. The cosmos appears to consist for the larger part out of mass we cannot see. We have no idea where it comes from. Physicists call this ‘dark matter’. Sterile neutrinos are candidate building blocks of dark matter. However, it has never been proven that these hypothetical particles even exist at all.

If they do exist, they would have an extremely weak or even no interaction with ordinary matter. The proposed SHiP experiment uses SPS’s high-intensity proton beam to try and produce heavy sterile neutrinos, which should occasionally decay into normal matter. The collaboration expects the protons to create the sought-after particles through a chain of events, after which they would be able to indirectly prove their existence by measuring signature decay signals.

The SHiP collaboration reached an important landmark in their attempt to set up a 185 million euro experiment that uses this Super Proton Synchrotron at CERN to prove the existence of sterile neutrinos.

Erik Arends
Physics Outreach Officer
arends [at] physics.leidenuniv.nl
+31 (0)71 527 5471
Twitter: @LeidenPhysics

Publ. 03-02-2016 17:03
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