[News-releases] Japan/Canada Science Experiment Makes and Detects Elusive Neutrino Particles

Tim Meyer tmeyer at triumf.ca
Wed Nov 25 12:58:40 PST 2009

News Release | For Immediate Release | November 25, 2009

Canadians Play Pivotal Role in Construction and Operation of Japan-based
International Project

(Vancouver, BC) - As CERN's Large Hadron Collider springs back into action
in Europe, success and celebration in particle physics are also being fueled
by developments in Asia.  Scientists from Japan, Canada, and around the
world celebrated this past weekend as they generated elusive neutrino
particles and detected them before they began their 300 km traversal of the
island of Japan.  

Physicists from the Japanese-led multinational Tokai-to-Kamiokande (T2K)
neutrino collaboration announced that they detected the first events
generated by their newly built neutrino beam at the J-PARC accelerator
laboratory in Tokai, Japan.  Protons from the Japanese synchrotron were
directed onto a carbon target where interactions produce a beam of the
elusive particles called neutrinos.  These neutrinos then flew 200 metres
through the earth to a sophisticated detector system capable of making
detailed measurements of their energy, direction, and type.

Akira Konaka, spokesperson for the Canadian team on the project said, "With
the discovery of the phenomena of neutrino oscillations from solar neutrinos
at SNO in Sudbury, Canada and from cosmic ray neutrinos at Super-Kamiokande
in Japan, Japan and Canada are taking the lead in the field of neutrino
physics.  With the confirmation this weekend that we can produce neutrinos
and observe them as planned at J-PARC, we are eager to move on to the
physics data-taking phase which involves studying the neutrinos after 300 km
rather than just the first 200 metres."  

Currently, a dozen students, postdoctoral fellows, and faculty from Canada
are staying in Japan to commission and operate the experiment. The beam
intensity is rapidly increasing, and the team is making quick progress
towards the precision study of neutrino oscillation, providing clues in
understanding the origin of mass and mixing of neutrinos. 

The data from the complex detector system is still being analyzed, but the
physicists have seen at least 3 neutrino events, in line with the
expectation based on the current beam and detector performance.  Prof.
Koichiro Nishikawa, director of the Institute for Particle and Nuclear
physics at the KEK laboratory and founder of the T2K collaboration, said
"The T2K experiment is about to reveal another mystery of neutrinos. I would
like to thank everyone who has been supporting this experiment directly or
indirectly and to thank our excellent collaborators from all over the world
for making it possible to reach this stage of the experiment. All the people
in T2K also owe a big debt to the accelerator physicists who worked so hard
to build and commission the accelerators."  This detection marks the
beginning of the operational phase of the T2K experiment, a collaboration of
a dozen nations and nearly 500 physicists with the aim of measuring new
properties of the ghostly neutrino. 

Neutrinos interact only weakly with matter, and thus pass effortlessly
through the earth. Neutrinos exist in three types, called electron, muon,
and tau; linked by particle interactions to their more familiar charged
cousins like the electron. Measurements over the last few decades, notably
by the Super-Kamiokande and KamLAND neutrino experiments in western Japan
and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Ontario, have shown that neutrinos
exhibit strange behavior known as neutrino oscillations, whereby one type of
neutrino will turn into another as they propagate through space. Neutrino
oscillations require neutrinos to have mass and therefore were not allowed
in our previous theoretical understanding of particle physics. They may even
be related to the mystery of why there is more matter than anti-matter in
the universe, and thus are the focus of intense study worldwide. 

Canadian scientists have been involved with T2K since its inception and are
making key contributions to the experiment which will send a beam of muon
neutrinos 300 km across Japan to see how their properties evolve.  The
Canadian contributions to the T2K beam line include the off-axis beam design
concept (a trick to get higher beam intensities at the correct energies),
the proton beam transport scheme from the accelerator to the target, and the
beam monitoring device which monitors critical properties of the incoming
proton beam just before it strikes the target.  Also, TRIUMF-based
technology was used to provide remote handling systems for the maintenance
of the final focus beam monitors, the target, and the horn system. 


Timothy I. Meyer, Ph.D.
Head, Strategic Planning & Communications
4004 Wesbrook Mall
Vancouver, BC  V6T 2A3  CANADA
Tel: 604-222-7674
Fax: 604-222-3791
Cell: 650-464-8955
E-mail: tmeyer at triumf.ca
WWW: http://www.triumf.ca

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