The mystery of neutrino mass could soon be solved

Neutrinos are a billion times more abundant in the universe than atoms.


The neutrino is incredibly tiny. For many years, scientists thought they were massless. Experiments showing that neutrinos change type proved that wasn’t the case, but we still don’t know the absolute mass of the neutrino.

Physicists are just one step closer to reveal the mystery of mass of the neutrino, a subatomic particle that is very similar to an electron but has no electrical charge. Once thought to be massless, the particle probably has a mass no more than 500,000 times that of an electron.

In a new study that aims to examine the upper limit of the neutrino’s mass, scientists analyzed the decay of a radioactive form of hydrogen called tritium. By estimating the vitality of the released electrons, they were able to appraise the mass of the neutrino with more accuracy than was previously conceivable.

Christian Weinheimer, at the University of Münster, Germany, said, “Neutrinos are a billion times more abundant in the universe than atoms, so even tiny neutrino masses would make a big contribution to the mass in the universe.”

“We were able to measure the precise energy of the electrons by using an enormous, purpose-built electron spectrometer that is 24 meters tall and 10 meters across.”

Melissa Uchida, at the University of Cambridge, UK, said, “It’s very, very exciting. This is just the most precise measurement we’ve ever had. Uchida thinks the project gives us real hope of pinpointing the mass of the neutrino in the coming years.”

“We may finally be able to put together the puzzle of how the formation of the universe happened.”

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