Neutrinos are one of the universe’s most enigmatic particles, with only dark matter eluding scientists as a more perplexing phenomena.
According to a recent research released on a preprint server, while there are neutrino detectors in operation looking for the rare particles, we may need to look to the huge sizes of the Pacific Ocean to find a class of ultra-powerful neutrinos.
And, with a small-scale demonstration in the works, we may soon find out if this concept works and transforms our understanding of the cosmos.
A larger neutrino detector is required
Neutrinos are produced in large quantities across the cosmos. They participate in the weak nuclear force and are important in nuclear decay and fusion. According to a study from Space.com, neutrinos aren’t far away wherever nuclear activity is declining. For example, the sun’s core is one massive fusion process, which implies neutrinos are constantly blasting away from it. According to previous research on neutrinos, when you raise your thumb up to the sun, around 60 billion neutrinos travel through your thumbnail every second. That’s a lot of information.
The issue is that neutrinos seldom interact with regular stuff, despite the fact that billions of them pass through your body every second. Despite this staggering amount, only roughly one neutrino will ever interact directly with the atoms in your body during your lifetime. For decades, scientists assumed that the elusive neutrinos, which travel at the speed of light, had no mass. However, evidence throughout time suggested that neutrinos do, in fact, have mass.
Scientists are aware of three types of neutrinos: muon neutrinos, tau neutrinos, and electron neutrinos. While each kind has its own set of nuclear processes, all three can switch identities while moving. This means that even a breakthrough research that captures a single neutrino would only know a fraction of the neutrino’s existence, and much less of its “previous lives.” And the most energetic neutrinos are so uncommon that existing detectors, such as IceCube in Antarctica, have only detected a few. We need a larger detector to increase our understanding of these enigmatic and theoretically numerous particles.
A neutrino detector on a never-before-seen scale
The Pacific Ocean Neutrino Experiment (P-ONE) may be required in this case. It’s not an ocean-spanning detector, so don’t be alarmed. It works like this: scientists first locate an isolated spot in the Pacific, after which we construct unreasonably long strands of photodetectors (nearly a mile long, probably longer). The strands will then be attached to floats so that they may hang vertically in the water. P-ONE anticipates a total of 1,400 photodetectors flying up and down in the Pacific, spanning a mile-wide region, in ten clusters of these incredibly long strings, each with 20 optical features. This would be capable of detecting little neutrino flashes as they strike the water.
Naturally, there are flaws in the design. For one thing, in an ocean the size of the Pacific, the strands won’t be able to stay stationary. And the world’s largest body of water isn’t entirely made up of pure water, with plankton, salt, and a lot of fish waste strewn about. These and other events in the Pacific will change the light patterns between the strands, making it difficult to monitor neutrino interactions and forcing scientists to constantly readjust the massive machine. It doesn’t exist as of this writing, but the research team behind it hopes to build a smaller, two-strand proof of concept in the next years. If it succeeds, we might be on the threshold of a new era of cosmic research on previously unimaginable scales.