Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Sudbury Neutrino Observatory
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) is located 6800 feet underground in an active Nickel mine (INCO's Creighton Mine) near Greater Sudbury, Ontario, Canada. The detector is designed to detect solar neutrinos through their interactions with deuterium nuclei. The detector target is 1000 tonnes of heavy water contained in a 6 meter radius acrylic vessel, and the detector cavity is filled with light water to provide bouyancy for the vessel and radioactive shielding. The heavy water is viewed by 9600 single photon detectors known as Photomultiplier Tubes (PMTs) mounted on a geodesic sphere at a radius of about 850cm. The experiment does not directly detect neutrinos, but rather observes the light produced by relativistic electrons in the water. As relativistic electrons lose energy they produce a cone of blue light through the Cerenkov effect, and it is this light that is directly detected. The detector was designed to solve the solar neutrino problem, as well as to search for evidence of neutrino flavour change (neutrino oscillations).
The first measurements of the number of solar neutrinos reaching the earth were taken in the 1960s, and all experiments prior to SNO observed a third to a half fewer neutrinos than were predicted by the Standard Solar Model. One of the possible explanations for the reduced flux was the theory of neutrino flavor oscillation: the neutrinos emitted by the sun would undergo fundamental changes into other types of neutrinos as they travel through the sun. On June 18th, 2001, the first scientific results of the Observatory were published, bringing the first clear evidence that this theory was correct. The actual flux of neutrinos measured by SNO coincides with the theoretical output. Further measurements carried out by the Observatory have since confirmed this result.
SNO is also capable of detecting a supernova within our galaxy. As neutrinos emitted by a supernova are released earlier than the photons, it would be possible to alert the astronomical community before the supernova be visible. SNO is a funding member of SNEWS with Super-Kamiokande and LVD.
Asteroid (14724) SNO is named in honor of the Observatory.
Other neutrino observatories
- SNO - official site.
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