NBC News calls it “the ghostly signal that reveals the engine of the universe.” Long-time Slashdot reader fahrbot-bot shares their report:
In research published Wednesday in the journal Nature, scientists reported that they’ve made the first detection of almost-ethereal particles called neutrinos that can be traced to carbon-nitrogen-oxygen fusion, known as the CNO cycle, inside the sun. It’s a landmark finding that confirms theoretical predictions from the 1930s, and it’s being hailed as one of the greatest discoveries in physics of the new millenium. “It’s really a breakthrough for solar and stellar physics,” said Gioacchino Ranucci of the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics (INFN), one of the researchers on the project since it began in 1990.
The scientists used the ultrasensitive Borexino detector at the INFN’s Gran Sasso particle physics laboratory in central Italy — the largest underground research center in the world, deep beneath the Apennine Mountains, about 65 miles northeast of Rome. The detection caps off decades of study of the sun’s neutrinos by the Borexino project, and reveals for the first time the main nuclear reaction that most stars use to fuse hydrogen into helium… Scientists calculate that the CNO cycle is the primary type of fusion in the universe. But it’s hard to spot inside our relatively cool sun, where it accounts for only 1 percent of its energy…
Ranucci said the Borexino detector has spent decades measuring neutrinos from the sun’s main proton-proton chain reaction, but detecting its CNO neutrinos has been very difficult — only about seven neutrinos with the tell-tale energy of the CNO cycle are spotted in a day. The discovery required making the detector ever more sensitive over the last five years, Ranucci said, by shielding it from outside sources of radioactivity so that the inner chamber of the detector is the most radiation-free place on Earth.
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