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  • richardmitnick 3:06 pm on January 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: FNAL NOvA, , , , Neutrinos Suggest Solution to Mystery of Universe’s Existence, , , , T2K Experiment/Super-Kamiokande Collaboration   

    From Quanta: “Neutrinos Suggest Solution to Mystery of Universe’s Existence” 

    Quanta Magazine
    Quanta Magazine

    December 12, 2017
    Katia Moskvitch

    A neutrino passing through the Super-Kamiokande experiment creates a telltale light pattern on the detector walls. T2K Experiment/Super-Kamiokande Collaboration, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo

    T2K Experiment, Tokai to Kamioka, Japan

    T2K Experiment, Tokai to Kamioka, Japan

    From above, you might mistake the hole in the ground for a gigantic elevator shaft. Instead, it leads to an experiment that might reveal why matter didn’t disappear in a puff of radiation shortly after the Big Bang.

    I’m at the Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex, or J-PARC — a remote and well-guarded government facility in Tokai, about an hour’s train ride north of Tokyo.

    J-PARC Facility Japan Proton Accelerator Research Complex , located in Tokai village, Ibaraki prefecture, on the east coast of Japan

    The experiment here, called T2K (for Tokai-to-Kamioka) produces a beam of the subatomic particles called neutrinos. The beam travels through 295 kilometers of rock to the Super-Kamiokande (Super-K) detector, a gigantic pit buried 1 kilometer underground and filled with 50,000 tons (about 13 million gallons) of ultrapure water. During the journey, some of the neutrinos will morph from one “flavor” into another.

    In this ongoing experiment, the first results of which were reported last year, scientists at T2K are studying the way these neutrinos flip in an effort to explain the predominance of matter over antimatter in the universe. During my visit, physicists explained to me that an additional year’s worth of data was in, and that the results are encouraging.

    According to the Standard Model of particle physics, every particle has a mirror-image particle that carries the opposite electrical charge — an antimatter particle.

    Standard Model of Particle Physics from Symmetry Magazine

    When matter and antimatter particles collide, they annihilate in a flash of radiation. Yet scientists believe that the Big Bang should have produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter, which would imply that everything should have vanished fairly quickly. But it didn’t. A very small fraction of the original matter survived and went on to form the known universe.

    Researchers don’t know why. “There must be some particle reactions that happen differently for matter and antimatter,” said Morgan Wascko, a physicist at Imperial College London. Antimatter might decay in a way that differs from how matter decays, for example. If so, it would violate an idea called charge-parity (CP) symmetry, which states that the laws of physics shouldn’t change if matter particles swap places with their antiparticles (charge) while viewed in a mirror (parity). The symmetry holds for most particles, though not all. (The subatomic particles known as quarks violate CP symmetry, but the deviations are so small that they can’t explain why matter so dramatically outnumbers antimatter in the universe.)

    Last year, the T2K collaboration announced the first evidence that neutrinos might break CP symmetry, thus potentially explaining why the universe is filled with matter. “If there is CP violation in the neutrino sector, then this could easily account for the matter-antimatter difference,” said Adrian Bevan, a particle physicist at Queen Mary University of London.

    Researchers check for CP violations by studying differences between the behavior of matter and antimatter. In the case of neutrinos, the T2K scientists explore how neutrinos and antineutrinos oscillate, or change, as the particles make their way to the Super-K detector. In 2016, 32 muon neutrinos changed to electron neutrinos on their way to Super-K. When the researchers sent muon antineutrinos, only four became electron antineutrinos.

    That result got the community excited — although most physicists were quick to point out that with such a small sample size, there was still a 10 percent chance that the difference was merely a random fluctuation. (By comparison, the 2012 Higgs boson discovery had less than a 1-in-1 million probability that the signal was due to chance.)

    This year, researchers collected nearly twice the amount of neutrino data as last year. Super-K captured 89 electron neutrinos, significantly more than the 67 it should have found if there was no CP violation. And the experiment spotted only seven electron antineutrinos, two fewer than expected.

    Lucy Reading-Ikkanda for Quanta Magazine

    Researchers aren’t claiming a discovery just yet. Because there are still so few data points, “there’s still a 1-in-20 chance it’s just a statistical fluke and there isn’t even any violation of CP symmetry,” said Phillip Litchfield, a physicist at Imperial College London. For the results to become truly significant, he added, the experiment needs to get down to about a 3-in-1000 chance, which researchers hope to reach by the mid-2020s.

    But the improvement on last year’s data, while modest, is “in a very interesting direction,” said Tom Browder, a physicist at the University of Hawaii. The hints of new physics haven’t yet gone away, as we might expect them to do if the initial results were due to chance. Results are also trickling in from another experiment, the 810-kilometer-long NOvA at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago.

    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector

    Last year it released its first set of neutrino data, with antineutrino results expected next summer. And although these first CP-violation results will also not be statistically significant, if the NOvA and T2K experiments agree, “the consistency of all these early hints” will be intriguing, said Mark Messier, a physicist at Indiana University.

    A planned upgrade of the Super-K detector might give the researchers a boost. Next summer, the detector will be drained for the first time in over a decade, then filled again with ultrapure water. This water will be mixed with gadolinium sulfate, a type of salt that should make the instrument much more sensitive to electron antineutrinos. “The gadolinium doping will make the electron antineutrino interaction easily detectable,” said Browder. That is, the salt will help the researchers to separate antineutrino interactions from neutrino interactions, improving their ability to search for CP violations.

    “Right now, we are probably willing to bet that CP is violated in the neutrino sector, but we won’t be shocked if it is not,” said André de Gouvêa, a physicist at Northwestern University. Wascko is a bit more optimistic. “The 2017 T2K result has not yet clarified our understanding of CP violation, but it shows great promise for our ability to measure it precisely in the future,” he said. “And perhaps the future is not as far away as we might have thought last year.”

    See the full article here .

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    Formerly known as Simons Science News, Quanta Magazine is an editorially independent online publication launched by the Simons Foundation to enhance public understanding of science. Why Quanta? Albert Einstein called photons “quanta of light.” Our goal is to “illuminate science.” At Quanta Magazine, scientific accuracy is every bit as important as telling a good story. All of our articles are meticulously researched, reported, edited, copy-edited and fact-checked.

  • richardmitnick 3:22 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , FNAL NOvA, , , , , ,   

    From Symmetry: “Putting the puzzle together” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Ali Sundermier

    Photos by Fermilab and CERN

    Successful physics collaborations rely on cooperation between people from many different disciplines.

    So, you want to start a physics experiment. Maybe you want to follow hints of an as yet unseen particle. Or maybe you want to learn something new about a mysterious process in the universe. Either way, your next step is to find people who can help you.

    In large science collaborations, such as the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider; the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE); and Fermilab’s NOvA, hundreds to thousands of people spread out across many institutions and countries keep things operating smoothly. Whether they’re senior scientists, engineers, technicians or administrators, each of them has an important role to play.

    CERN/ATLAS detector

    CERN/CMS Detector


    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector

    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle: This list will give you an idea about how their work fits together to create the big picture.

    Dreaming up the experiment

    Many particle physics experiments begin with a fundamental question. Why do objects have mass? Or, why is the universe made of matter?

    When scientists encounter these big, seemingly inscrutable questions, part of their job is to identify possible ways to answer them. A large part of this is breaking down the big questions into a program of smaller, answerable questions.

    In the case of the LHC, scientists who wondered about things such as undiscovered particles and the origin of mass designed a 27-kilometer particle collider and four giant detectors to learn more.

    Each scientist in a collaboration brings their own unique perspective and skill set to the table, whether it’s providing an understanding of the physics or offering expertise in operations or detector design.

    Perfecting the design

    Once scientists have an idea about the experiment they want to do and the approach they want to take, it’s the job of the engineers to turn the concepts into pieces of hardware that can be built, function and meet the experiment’s requirements.

    For example, engineers might have to figure out how the experiment should be supported mechanically or how to connect all the electrical systems and make signals available in a detector.

    In the case of NOvA, which investigates neutrino oscillations, scientists needed a detector that was huge and free of dense materials, which made conventional construction techniques unworkable. They had to work with engineers who could understand plastic as a building material so they could be confident about using it to build a gigantic, free-standing structure that fit the requirements.

    Keeping things running

    Technicians come in when the experimental apparatus and instrumentation are being built and often have complementary knowledge about what they’re working on. They build the hardware and coordinate the integration of components. It’s their work that, in the end, pulls everything together so the experiment functions.

    Once the experiment is built, technicians are responsible for keeping everything humming along at top performance. When physicists notice things going wrong with the detectors, the technicians usually have first eyes on it. It’s a vital task, since every second counts when it comes to collecting data.

    Doing the heavy lifting

    When designing and constructing the experiment, the scientists also recruit postdocs and grad students, who do the bulk of the data analysis.

    Grad students, who are still working on their PhDs, have to balance their own coursework with the real-world experiment, learning their way around running simulations, analyzing data and developing algorithms. They also make sure that every part of the detector is working up to par. In addition, they may work in instrumentation, developing new instruments and electronics.

    Postdocs, on the other hand, have already worked on experiments and obtained their PhDs, so they typically assume more of a leadership role in these collaborations. Part of their role is to guide the grad students in a sort of apprenticeship.

    Postdocs are often in charge of certain types of analysis or detector operations. Because they’ve worked on previous experiments, they have a tool kit and experience to draw on to solve problems when they crop up.

    Postdocs and grad students often work with technicians and engineers to ensure everything is properly built.

    Making the data accessible

    The LHC produces about 25 petabytes of data every year, or 25 billion megabytes. If the average size of an MP3 is about one megabyte per minute, then it would take almost 50,000 years to play 25 petabytes of songs. In physics collaborations, computer scientists and engineers have to organize the computing networks to ensure against bottlenecks or traffic jams when this massive amount of data is shared.

    They also maintain the software framework, which takes care of data handling and archiving. Say a scientist wants to know what happened on Feb. 27, 2015, at 3 a.m. Computing experts have to be able to go into the data catalogue and find, among the petabytes of data, where that event is stored.

    Sorting out the logistics

    One often overlooked group is the administrators.

    It’s up to the administrators to sequence all the different projects so they get the funds they need to make progress. They sort the logistics to make sure the right people are in the right places working on the right things.

    Administrators manage a group of people who are constantly coming and going. Is someone traveling to a site from a different institution? The administrators make sure that people get connected, work out itineraries and schedule where visiting scientists will live and work.

    Administrators also organize collaboration meetings, transfer money, and procure and ship equipment.

    Translating discoveries to the public

    While every single person involved in an experiment has a responsibility to effectively communicate with others, it can be challenging to communicate about research in a way that’s relatable to people from different backgrounds. That’s where the professional communicators come in.

    Communicators can translate a paper full of jargon and complicated science into a fascinating story that the rest of the world can get excited about.

    In addition to doing outreach for the public and writing press releases and pitching stories for the media, communicators offer coaching to people in a scientific collaboration on how to relay the science to a general audience, which is important for generating public interest.

    Fitting the pieces

    Now that you know many of the pieces that must fall into place for a large physics collaboration to be successful, also know that none of these roles is performed in a vacuum. For an experiment to work, there must be a synergy of tasks: Each relies on the success of the others. Now go start that experiment!

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on March 22, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FNAL NOvA, NOvA sees first antineutrino,   

    From FNAL: “NOvA sees first antineutrino” 

    FNAL II photo

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    March 21, 2017


    On Feb. 20, the NOvA neutrino experiment observed its first antineutrino, only two hours after the Fermilab accelerator complex switched to antineutrino delivery mode. The NOvA collaboration saw the antineutrino in the experiment’s far detector, which is located in northern Minnesota.

    NOvA scientists hope to learn more about how and why neutrinos change between one type and another. The three types, called flavors, are the muon, electron and tau neutrino. Over longer distances, neutrinos can flip between these flavors. NOvA is specifically designed to study muon neutrinos changing into electron neutrinos. Unraveling this mystery may help scientists understand why the universe is composed of matter and why that matter was not annihilated by antimatter after the Big Bang.

    This plot shows the tracks of particles resulting from an antineutrino interaction inside the NOvA far detector. Image: NOvA collaboration

    See the full article here .

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 5:13 pm on August 23, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FNAL NOvA, , , , , Hyper-Kamiokande   

    From Physics Today: “Six reasons to get excited about neutrinos” 

    Physics Today bloc

    Physics Today

    23 August 2016
    Andrew Grant

    Extra Dimensions: New results and upcoming experiments offer hope that neutrinos hold the key to expanding the standard model.

    The headlines from the recent International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP) in Chicago trended sad, focused on the dearth of discoveries from the Large Hadron Collider. (See, for example, “Prospective particle disappears in new LHC data.”) Yet there was some optimism to be found in the Windy City, particularly among neutrino physicists. Here are six reasons to believe that neutrinos might provide the window into new physics that the LHC has not:

    Neutrinos are proof that the standard model is wrong. Sure, we know that dark matter and dark energy are missing from the standard model. But neutrinos are standard-model members, and the theoretical predictions are wrong. Prevailing theory says that neutrinos are massless; the Nobel-winning experiments at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory and Super-Kamiokande demonstrated definitively that neutrinos oscillate between three flavors (electron, muon, and tau) and thus have mass. André de Gouvêa, a theoretical physicist at Northwestern University, deems neutrinos the “only palpable evidence of physics beyond the standard model.” Everything we learn about neutrinos in the coming years is new physics.

    This signal from May 2014 denotes the detection of an electron neutrino by Fermilab’s NOvA experiment. Credit: NOvA Neutrino Experiment.

    FNAL/NOvA experiment
    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    Neutrinos’ ability to morph from one flavor to another is only now starting to be understood. Each of neutrinos’ three flavors is actually a quantum superposition of three different mass states. By understanding the interplay of the three mass states, characterized by parameters called mixing angles, physicists can pin down how neutrinos transform between flavors. Fresh data from the NOvA experiment at Fermilab near Chicago suggest that neutrino mixing may not be as simple as most theories predict.

    Neutrinos may exhibit charge conjugation–parity (CP) violation. All known examples of CP violation, in which particle decays proceed differently with matter than with antimatter, take place in processes involving quark-containing particles like kaons and B mesons. But at the Neutrino 2016 meeting in London and at ICHEP, the T2K experiment offered fresh data hinting at matter–antimatter asymmetry for neutrinos.

    T2K Experiment
    T2K map
    T2K Experiment

    After firing beams of muon neutrinos and antineutrinos at the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan, scientists expected to detect 23 electron neutrinos and 7 electron antineutrinos; instead they have spotted 32 and 4, respectively. T2K isn’t anywhere close to achieving a 5 σ result, but the evidence for CP violation seems to be growing as the experiment acquires more data.

    Neutrinos may be the first fundamental particles that are Majorana fermions. Because the neutrino is the only fermion that is electrically neutral, it is also the only one that could be a Majorana fermion, a particle that is identical to its antiparticle. Learning whether neutrinos are Majorana particles or typical Dirac fermions would provide invaluable insight as to how neutrinos acquired mass at the dawn of the universe, de Gouvêa says. To determine the nature of neutrinos, physicists are hunting for a process called neutrinoless double beta decay. In typical double beta decay, two neutrons transform into protons and emit a pair of antineutrinos. If those antineutrinos are Majorana particles, they could annihilate each other. A 16 August paper from the KamLAND-Zen experiment in Japan reports the most stringent limits for the rate of neutrinoless double beta decay, further constraining the possibility that neutrinos are Majorana particles.

    Another neutrino flavor may be waiting to be discovered. The discovery of a fourth neutrino flavor, the sterile neutrino, would make every particle physicist forget about the LHC’s particle drought. Such a neutrino could enable physicists to explain dark matter or the absence of antimatter in the universe. The Antarctic detector IceCube just reported a negative result in the hunt for a sterile neutrino, but results from prior experiments still leave some wiggle room for the particle’s existence.

    Multiple powerful neutrino experiments are on the horizon. The NOvA experiment is up and running and delivering data that, at least so far, seem to complement T2K’s hints of CP violation. Fermilab scientists are already excited about the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which should come on line around 2025.


    Hyper-Kamiokande, a megadetector in Japan with a million-ton tank of water for neutrino detection, should start operations around the same time.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 2:11 pm on August 8, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FNAL NOvA, , ,   

    From FNAL: “NOvA shines new light on how neutrinos behave” 

    FNAL II photo

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    August 8, 2016
    Media contact:
    Andre Salles, Fermilab Office of Communication, media@fnal.gov, 630-840-3351

    Science contacts:
    Mark Messier, Indiana University, NOvA co-spokesperson, messier@indiana.edu, 812-855-0236
    Peter Shanahan, Fermilab, NOvA co-spokesperson, shanahan@fnal.gov, 630-840-8378

    New result indicates that the flavor and mass correlation may be more complex than previously thought.

    Scientists from the NOvA collaboration have announced an exciting new result that could improve our understanding of the behavior of neutrinos.

    FNAL/NOvA experiment
    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector
    FNAL NOvA Near Detector

    Neutrinos have previously been detected in three types, called flavors – muon, tau and electron. They also exist in three mass states, but those states don’t necessarily correspond directly to the three flavors. They relate to each other through a complex (and only partially understood) process called mixing, and the more we understand about how the flavors and mass states connect, the more we will know about these mysterious particles.

    As the collaboration will present today at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Chicago, NOvA scientists have seen evidence that one of the three neutrino mass states might not include equal parts of muon and tau flavor, as previously thought. Scientists refer to this as “nonmaximal mixing,” and NOvA’s preliminary result is the first hint that this may be the case for the third mass state.

    “Neutrinos are always surprising us. This result is a fresh look into one of the major unknowns in neutrino physics,” said Mark Messier of Indiana University, co-spokesperson of the NOvA experiment.

    The NOvA experiment, headquartered at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, has been collecting data on neutrinos since February 2014. NOvA uses the world’s most powerful beam of muon neutrinos, generated at Fermilab, which travels through the Earth 500 miles to a building-size detector in northern Minnesota. NOvA was designed to study neutrino oscillations, the phenomenon by which these particles “flip” flavors while in transit.

    NOvA has been using the oscillations of neutrinos to learn more about their basic properties for two years. The NOvA detector is sensitive to both muon and electron neutrinos and can analyze the number of muon neutrinos that remain after traveling through the Earth and the number of electron neutrinos that appear during the journey.

    The data also show that the third mass state might have more muon flavor than tau flavor, or vice versa. The NOvA experiment hasn’t yet collected enough data to claim a discovery of nonmaximal mixing, but if this effect persists, scientists expect to have enough data to definitively explore this mystery in the coming years.

    “NOvA is just getting started,” said Gregory Pawloski of the University of Minnesota, one of the NOvA scientists who worked on this result. “The data sample reported today is just one-sixth of the total planned, and it will be exciting to see if this intriguing hint develops into a discovery.”

    The NOvA experiment’s preliminary result shows an equal possibility that the third neutrino mass state is dominated by either muon or tau flavor. Image: NOvA collaboration.

    NOvA will take data with neutrinos and antineutrinos over the next several years. With both detectors running smoothly and Fermilab’s neutrino beam at full strength, the NOvA experiment is well positioned to illuminate many of the remaining neutrino mysteries.

    The NOvA experiment is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Science, the National Science Foundation and other institutions worldwide.

    For more information on NOvA, visit their website. To read a public presentation on this result, please visit this link.

    See the full article here .

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    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 12:57 pm on December 22, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FNAL NOvA, , Remote monitoring   

    From phys.org: “A window on a world where cosmic rays are just background noise” 


    December 22, 2015
    No writer credit

    Marco Colo glances at the beam monitor for the NOvA experiment. Colo, a Ph.D. student, is one of several William & Mary physicists who can take shifts monitoring the neutrino experiment from the comfort of Small Hall. Credit: Joseph McClain

    Marco Colo waved a dismissive hand at a near-constant spatter of colorful streaks appearing across a screen monitoring action at the NOvA neutrino experiment.

    FNAL NOvA experiment
    NOvA at FNAL

    “These aren’t neutrinos. Most of these things are just cosmic rays,” he explained, in the same weary tone that Han Solo used when he announced that mynocks had been chewing on the Millennium Falcon’s power cables. “You can tell by the downward trajectory.”

    Neutrino physicists work in a world in which otherwise exotic phenomena such as cosmic rays are just background noise. The goal is to get a handle on large, important questions—such as how the universe began—through the understanding of the behavior of particles that can zoom through a brick of lead a light-year thick and that have a habit of shape-shifting in mid-flight.

    Colo, a Ph.D. student in William & Mary’s Department of Physics, was in the middle of an eight-hour shift monitoring NOvA, which sends bazillions of these mysterious, super-abundant particles from a source at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago through the solid earth to a far detector 500 miles distant near Ash River, Minnesota.

    William & Mary has a number of physicists who collaborate on NOvA, as well as other neutrino experiments across the world. Now, members of William & Mary’s NOvA team doesn’t have to go to Fermilab to do their part. They can stand their shifts right from the third floor of Small Hall.

    The NOvA remote control facility was funded from Patricia Vahle’s CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation. A testing and calibration period was followed by a set of “shadow shifts,” explained Vahle, associate professor of physics. The shadow shifts are like driver’s training lessons for physicists, she said, as the William & Mary physicists are being monitored by Fermilab personnel until the Small Hall facility and individuals using it all become certified.

    Like his fellow NOvA physicists, Colo pulls his shift in a room dominated by a dozen largish computer monitors. Each monitor tracks different aspects of the NOvA experiment. The most important monitors are the ones that show the beam status, the neutrinos passing through the near detector and the far detector—the panel usually dominated by cosmic rays.

    “We make a beam of neutrinos at Fermilab,” Vahle explained. “And we monitor that beam right up close—that’s the near detector. We measure that same beam of neutrinos many hundreds of miles away, up in northern Minnesota. We can compare our measurements in the two locations.”

    download mp4 video here.

    Differences in the two measurements can help physicists solve the puzzle of neutrino oscillation—the scientist’s term for the neutrino’s shape-shifting among three different states, or “flavors.”

    “We say that we make chocolate ice cream at Fermilab,” Vahle said. “And by the time it gets up to northern Minnesota, it’s changed to strawberry. There’s no more chocolate ice cream. That’s neutrino oscillation, and that’s what we’re trying to measure.”

    NOvA and other experiments are collecting data that will one day yield an explanation of the physical laws governing oscillation and other neutrino phenomena. Neutrinos themselves are produced by the sun’s fusion furnace (and also by all other stars). Nuclear power plants emit neutrinos. Neutrinos produced by the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago are still zooming through matter as if it wasn’t there.

    Because they are so numerous and ubiquitous, scientists believe that an understanding of neutrino physics can not only tell us a lot about the beginning of the universe, but also might give us clues about its ultimate end. Neutrino science also offers potential for the development of less cosmic, but quite important, applications such as apparatus to detect nuclear weapons activity.

    Until the remote control facility came on line, each of the NOvA collaborators at William & Mary would spend three days to a week at Fermilab. In addition to Vahle and Colo, current collaborators include postdoc Alexander Radovic, Ph.D. student Ji Liu and Jeffrey Nelson, a professor of physics.

    “Hopefully, this will save each of us two trips to Fermilab a year,” Vahle said.

    The physicists have involved a number of undergraduates in NOvA as well, notably Jack Donahue ’17. Donahue asked to get involved in the project following a summer Research Experience for Undergraduates experience with the physics department. Vahle put him to work on the control room project, which proved to be more challenging than a simple hookup.

    “I had never used Linux computers before. And the software to make it work was for a slightly different system. So I had to adapt it to work with our machines, which took a while, and there was a lot of banging my head against the table,” Donahue said.

    He worked the last bugs out of the hookup to Fermilab in late October.

    “I was sitting in Swem and it finally worked on the little laptop that I was testing things out on,” Donahue said. “I stood up and cheered, because it took so long to get working.”

    Immense apparatus are required to detect neutrinos, as the particles rarely interact with matter. The NOvA far detector in Minnesota is the largest plastic structure on earth, purpose-built to detect just a few of the stream of neutrinos flying through the solid earth at near-light speed from the beam source at Fermilab, oscillating as they go.

    Colo says that an average eight-hour shift records a single neutrino event among the hail of cosmic rays at the far detector.

    “You never see it, though!” Vahle said. The neutrinos, maintaining their reputation for elusiveness, she said, seem to have a way of popping up when you’re looking at one of the other 11 NOvA monitors.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:35 pm on August 14, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FNAL NOvA,   

    From FNAL: “Muon neutrinos make a disappearance” 

    FNAL II photo

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Aug. 14, 2015
    Kirk Bays, California Institute of Technology

    This plot shows the energy spectrum of detected muon neutrino events in the NOvA detector compared to the much larger signal that would be expected if there were no neutrino oscillations.

    Neutrinos are ghosts; everywhere around us, we unknowingly swim through billions of them constantly without ever interacting. Thankfully both natural and man-made sources such as the Fermilab NuMI beam produce copious numbers of higher-energy neutrinos.

    FNAL NUMI Tunnel project
    FNAL NuMI tunnel

    This abundance means that they can be spotted with very large detectors despite their ghostly nature. They come in three types and are known for their strange properties, such as their tendency to oscillate, or change from one type into another, similar to tossing a basketball and finding a mere ping pong ball where it lands.

    Oscillations depend on a neutrino’s energy and distance traveled, and by using a man-made neutrino beam we can carefully choose where we put our detectors in order to maximize this effect. This was done in NOvA, the U.S. flagship long-baseline neutrino experiment with a massive five-story, 14,000-ton far detector located in remote northern Minnesota, 500 miles from Fermilab, which only recently released the analysis results from its first batch of data.

    FNAL NOvA experiment

    FNAL Dune & LBNF

    NOvA looks for both the disappearance of muon type neutrinos (which make up the NuMI beam) as they oscillate away, and the appearance of electron type neutrinos that wouldn’t be there without oscillations. The included plot shows the energy distribution of muon neutrinos detected, where NOvA would expect to see 201 muon neutrinos if there were no oscillations, but only 33 were actually seen — clear evidence of oscillations.

    Muon neutrinos are detected by seeing muons resulting from their interactions, and one analysis challenge was to distinguish the muons from neutrinos from tens of millions of very similar looking cosmic ray muons. Only one or two of these 33 events are estimated to be cosmic rays surviving the sophisticated event selection, however.

    The shape of the energy distribution contains further information that allows extraction of precise parameters detailing the inner workings of the oscillations. These NOvA results are already competitive with the world’s best information on these parameters with less than 10 percent of the planned data, and this result will quickly improve.

    The information gleaned from these rare neutrino interactions has far-reaching implications and can teach us about things like the evolution of the universe, how a supernova works and possibly even why the universe is made of matter and not antimatter. We still have a long way to go in solving all their mysteries, but NOvA is a big step along the path to understanding these little ghosts all around us.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 12:32 pm on August 7, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FNAL NOvA,   

    From FNAL “Frontier Science Result: NOvA sees electron neutrinos 

    FNAL II photo

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Aug. 7, 2015
    Alexander Radovic, College of William and Mary

    This event in the NOvA far detector in Minnesota, shown from two different viewpoints, is a candidate electron neutrino interaction.

    Neutrino physicists have had a rich and storied relationship with the little neutral ones. First suggested by Wolfgang Pauli as a solution to the problem of missing energy in radioactive decay these light neutral particles have always proven to be as frustrating as they are fascinating. Pauli himself famously said, “I have done a terrible thing, I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected.”

    But detect it physicists did, and we found it to be even stranger than we first expected. Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that neutrinos change among the seemingly distinct types as they travel. Physicists around the world and at Fermilab have made much progress in understanding these neutrino oscillations, but key questions remain unanswered. Does the ordering of neutrino masses match our intuition based on what we know of other families of particles, or is it inverted? Do neutrinos oscillate the same as antineutrinos? These questions are themselves compelling and tie in to grander theories. For example, leptogenesis seeks to explain why our universe has far more matter than antimatter.

    Many experiments have worked to answer these questions. At Fermilab the NuMI muon neutrino beam enables a program of study of neutrino oscillations.

    FNAL NUMI Tunnel project
    FNAL NuMI muon neutrino beam tunnel

    Over the long journey from Fermilab to northern Minnesota, these neutrinos change type. The MINOS experiment has already used this beam to study the disappearance of muon neutrinos. The NOvA experiment is now providing another key piece of the puzzle by studying the appearance of electron neutrinos.

    FNAL NOvA experiment

    In many ways the entire NOvA experiment was optimized to see electron neutrino appearance. The detector has a high resolution and is instrumented with specialized photodetectors such that it can resolve the key signatures of an electron neutrino interaction. Excellent timing systems allow us to disentangle neutrino beam events from cosmic activity. The NuMI beam is operating at its highest-ever power to provide as many neutrinos as possible to the experiment, and the detector is off the main axis of the NuMI beam so it sees neutrinos at the perfect energy.

    The first measurement of electron neutrino appearance by NOvA has also required a complex analysis of our data, using sophisticated image processing algorithms trained on large sets of simulated data to pull out a pure sample of electron neutrino candidates and data-driven studies using beam and cosmic events at our near and far detectors. Four graduate students will earn their doctorates with their work on this result, and more have made significant contributions.

    The first appearance result, presented at Thursday’s Joint Experimental-Theoretical Seminar, shows six events selected with our primary analysis and 11 with our secondary analysis, with an expected background of approximately one in each case. This observation proves conclusively that the NOvA experiment can measure electron neutrino appearance and confirms oscillations at greater than 3 sigma with our primary analysis or 5 sigma with our secondary analysis. While this first result represents one-twelfth of the final exposure, it has already reached excellent agreement with measurements from existing experiments such as MINOS and T2K.

    NOvA has shown that it will be able to contribute significantly to the world’s knowledge of neutrino oscillations in the coming decade. It also represents a start of another exciting road as we set out to make the best possible use of world-class detectors and a world-class beam to provide leading discoveries using electron neutrino appearance.

    See the full article here.

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world
    collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

  • richardmitnick 6:10 pm on October 6, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , FNAL NOvA,   

    From Symmetry: “500-mile neutrino experiment up and running” 


    October 06, 2014
    Media Contacts:

    Andre Salles, Fermilab Office of Communication, media@fnal.gov, 630-840-3351
    Rhonda Zurn, University of Minnesota, rzurn@umn.edu, 612-626-7959

    Science Contacts:

    Mark Messier, NOvA co-spokesperson, messier@indiana.edu, 812-855-0236
    Gary Feldman, NOvA co-spokesperson, gfeldman@fas.harvard.edu, 617-496-1044
    Peter Shanahan, Fermilab physicist, NOvA experiment, shanahan@fnal.gov, 630-840-8378
    Marvin Marshak, Ash River Laboratory director, University of Minnesota, marshak@umn.edu, 612-624-1312

    With construction completed, the NOvA neutrino experiment has begun its probe into the mysteries of ghostly particles that may hold the key to understanding the universe.

    It’s the most powerful accelerator-based neutrino experiment ever built in the United States, and the longest-distance one in the world. It’s called NOvA, and after nearly five years of construction, scientists are now using the two massive detectors—placed 500 miles apart—to study one of nature’s most elusive subatomic particles.

    Scientists believe that a better understanding of neutrinos, one of the most abundant and difficult-to-study particles, may lead to a clearer picture of the origins of matter and the inner workings of the universe. Using the world’s most powerful beam of neutrinos, generated at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago, the NOvA experiment can precisely record the telltale traces of those rare instances when one of these ghostly particles interacts with matter.

    Construction on NOvA’s two massive neutrino detectors began in 2009. In September, the Department of Energy officially proclaimed construction of the experiment completed, on schedule and under budget.

    “Congratulations to the NOvA collaboration for successfully completing the construction phase of this important and exciting experiment,” says James Siegrist, DOE associate director of science for high energy physics. “With every neutrino interaction recorded, we learn more about these particles and their role in shaping our universe.”

    NOvA’s particle detectors were both constructed in the path of the neutrino beam sent from Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, to northern Minnesota. The 300-ton near-detector, installed underground at the laboratory, observes the neutrinos as they embark on their near-light-speed journey through the Earth, with no tunnel needed. The 14,000-ton far-detector—constructed in Ash River, Minnesota, near the Canadian border—spots those neutrinos after their 500-mile trip and allows scientists to analyze how they change over that long distance.

    FNAL NOvA experiment

    For the next six years, Fermilab will send tens of thousands of billions of neutrinos every second in a beam aimed at both detectors, and scientists expect to catch only a few each day in the far detector, so rarely do neutrinos interact with matter.

    From this data, scientists hope to learn more about how and why neutrinos change between one type and another. The three types, called flavors, are the muon, electron and tau neutrino. Over longer distances, neutrinos can flip between these flavors. NOvA is specifically designed to study muon neutrinos changing into electron neutrinos. Unraveling this mystery may help scientists understand why the universe is composed of matter and why that matter was not annihilated by antimatter after the big bang.

    Scientists will also probe the still-unknown masses of the three types of neutrinos in an attempt to determine which is the heaviest.

    “Neutrino research is one of the cornerstones of Fermilab’s future and an important part of the worldwide particle physics program,” says Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer. “We’re proud of the NOvA team for completing the construction of this world-class experiment, and we’re looking forward to seeing the first results in 2015.”

    The far detector in Minnesota is believed to be the largest free-standing plastic structure in the world, at 200 feet long, 50 feet high and 50 feet wide. Both detectors are constructed from PVC and filled with a scintillating liquid that gives off light when a neutrino interacts with it. Fiber optic cables transmit that light to a data acquisition system, which creates 3-D pictures of those interactions for scientists to analyze.

    The NOvA far detector in Ash River saw its first long-distance neutrinos in November 2013. The far detector is operated by the University of Minnesota under an agreement with Fermilab, and students at the university were employed to manufacture the component parts of both detectors.

    “Building the NOvA detectors was a wide-ranging effort that involved hundreds of people in several countries,” says Gary Feldman, co-spokesperson of the NOvA experiment. “To see the construction completed and the operations phase beginning is a victory for all of us and a testament to the hard work of the entire collaboration.”

    The NOvA collaboration comprises 208 scientists from 38 institutions in the United States, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Greece, India, Russia and the United Kingdom. The experiment receives funding from the US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation and other funding agencies.

    See the full article, with video, here.

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

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  • richardmitnick 11:40 am on July 25, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , FNAL NOvA, , ,   

    From Fermilab: “NOvA collaboration celebrates in northern Minnesota” 

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    Friday, July 25, 2014
    Fermilab Leah Hesla
    Leah Hesla

    In 2012, upon beholding the newly completed NOvA far-detector building in northern Minnesota, the University of Minnesota’s Marvin Marshak didn’t believe the collaboration would be able to adequately populate it. At the time, the mammoth structure, which is the length of two basketball courts and would house the future NOvA detector, impressed visitors with the full force of not only its size, but its emptiness.

    Fermilab NOvA Far detector

    “It was scary. We looked at this building and thought, ‘Are we really going to be able to fill this place up?'” said Marshak, NOvA laboratory director. “People looked like tiny little insects against the backdrop of the building.”

    His worries were needless. On Thursday, the NOvA collaboration celebrated the new detector, which now fills the building nicely, in Ash River, Minnesota.

    The celebration came near the conclusion of NOvA’s collaboration meeting, which took place in Minneapolis. Attendees took a one-day excursion to the far detector, 280 miles north, to see the detector.

    The collaboration also discussed the beginning of data taking with the full detectors in the next few weeks. A celebration at Fermilab is planned for later this year.

    NOvA, a Fermilab-hosted neutrino experiment, makes use of two detectors: a smaller, underground detector at Fermilab and the much larger, 14-kiloton detector in Minnesota. The neutrino beam, originating at Fermilab through the NuMI beamline, travels 500 miles from the near detector through the Earth to the far detector.

    Fermilab NUMI Tunnel project
    NumI Tunnel

    Fermilab NOvA experiment

    NOvA scientists will work to uncover the true mass ordering of neutrinos’ three types. They’ll also look for evidence of CP violation, which could help explain why there is so much more matter than antimatter in our universe and, thus, why we’re here.

    “We’re going to kick all the physics analyses into high gear and get ready for first publications,” said Indiana University’s Mark Messier, NOvA co-spokesperson. “We hope to have first results by the end of the year.”

    It’s been a long time coming. Researchers submitted a letter of intent to show their interest in a new neutrino experiment in 2002. In the years since, the collaboration has been hard at work designing, developing, producing and installing hardware, software, fiber optics and even the glue that would hold the kiloton-scale blocks’ components together.

    With almost all of the modules of the detector already taking data, it’s a new era for NOvA and the Fermilab neutrino program.

    “We’re excited to get this experiment up and running — we’ve been working toward this for a long time,” said Fermilab’s Pat Lukens, far detector manager.

    “For at least the next 10 years, there are only two long-baseline neutrino beam experiments in the world — NOvA and T2K,” Marshak said, referring to the Japanese experiment. “Some of the answers we’re looking for are going to come from the experiments that we have right now.”

    Fermilab LBNE
    Fermilab LBNE

    See the full article here.

    Fermilab Campus

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics.

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