Neutrino

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ν
τ
: Mid 1970s

A neutrino (Italian pronunciation: [neuˈtriːno], meaning "small neutral one"; English pronunciation: /njuːˈtriːnoʊ/) is an elementary particle that usually travels close to the speed of light, is electrically neutral, and is able to pass through ordinary matter almost undisturbed. This makes neutrinos extremely difficult to detect. Neutrinos have a very small, but nonzero mass. They are denoted by the Greek letter ν (nu).

Neutrinos are similar to the more familiar electron, with one crucial difference: neutrinos do not carry electric charge. Because neutrinos are electrically neutral, they are not affected by the electromagnetic forces which act on electrons. Neutrinos are affected only by a "weak" sub-atomic force of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and are therefore able to pass through great distances in matter without being affected by it. As neutrinos have mass, they also interact gravitationally with other massive particles. Gravity, however, is by far the weakest of the four known forces.

Neutrinos are created as a result of certain types of radioactive decay or nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the Sun, in nuclear reactors, or when cosmic rays hit atoms. There are three types, or "flavours", of neutrinos: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos. Each type also has a corresponding antiparticle, called an antineutrino. Electron neutrinos (or antineutrinos) are generated whenever protons change into neutrons, or vice versa—the two forms of beta decay. Interactions involving neutrinos are mediated by the weak interaction.

Most neutrinos passing through the Earth emanate from the Sun. Every second, in the region of the Earth, about 65 billion (6.5×1010
) solar neutrinos pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the sun.[1]

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