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Interactions News Wire #08-05
10 February 2005  http://www.interactions.org
Source: PPARC
Content: Press Release
Date Issued: 10 February 2005

MINOS ready to study mysterious neutrinos

A new five year research programme studying the properties of
mysterious particles called neutrinos is due to start on March 4th 2005.
The first neutrinos generated in a new particle accelerator beam for the
Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (MINOS) were observed during
commissioning work last week at the Fermi National Accelerator
Laboratory, Fermilab, near Chicago in the USA. These neutrinos will be
sent on a 735 km journey through the earth to a 5,500 ton detector
located in a historic iron mine near the Canadian border. This heralds
the successful completion of four years of construction and marks the
final stage of preparation for the experimental programme for UK
physicists, who are working with scientists from the USA, Russia,
Greece, France and Brazil.

MINOS will investigate the phenomena of neutrino oscillations and
neutrino mass - one of the most important and exciting topics in
particle physics today with implications for both the Standard Model
used in particle physics and cosmological models of how the Universe
formed. The experiment will formally start at a ceremony in Fermilab on
March 4th when commissioning is completed. So far, the commissioning is
going well - when the neutrino supply was switched on for the first
time, scientists thought that it might take weeks before they saw the
signal in the first, or 'near detector'. Instead they picked up the
first signal after only one and a half hours. Now they are working on
the final configuration so that they can detect this beam in the 'far
detector' located in the Soudan Mine in Northern Minnesota.

Neutrinos are extremely abundant in nature but interact so weakly with
matter that millions pass through the human body unnoticed at any
moment. This means that many of their important properties have remained
hidden until recent times. Three different types of neutrino are known
to exist (the electron, muon and tau 'flavours'). Recent experiments
such as SNO (the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, Canada, involving UK
scientists) and Super Kamiokande in Japan, have studied neutrinos from
the sun and from cosmic rays striking the Earth and demonstrated that
they are capable of transforming (oscillating) from one type to another
as they fly through space. This property is of great interest to
scientists and also requires that one or more of the neutrinos,
previously thought to be mass-less, do have a small mass. It offers
exciting possibilities to cosmologists in understanding how the Universe
developed and contributes to dark matter - the 'missing mass' of the
Universe which can be detected gravitationally but can not be observed
directly with conventional telescopes.

Whilst experiments at SNO and elsewhere have provided evidence of
neutrino oscillations, they rely on the Sun or cosmic rays as the
neutrino source and can only measure neutrinos as they reach the Earth.
To make more detailed and controlled measurements, scientists need to
create their own neutrino source and measure the neutrinos before and
after any oscillation in order to see the effect in detail.

The MINOS experiment will use the new, intense beam of muon-type
neutrinos produced at Fermilab to study the properties of these elusive
particles. The neutrino beam will be projected straight through the
earth from Fermilab (near Chicago) to the Soudan Mine in Northern
Minnesota - a distance of 735 kilometres. No tunnel is needed because
neutrinos interact so rarely with matter that they can pass straight
through the earth virtually unhindered.

Two massive neutrino detectors have been built by MINOS, both of which
are complete and ready for the beam. The 1000 ton 'near' detector,
placed close to the beam source at Fermilab, will sample the beam as it
leaves Fermilab and provide the control measurements. The 5,500 ton
'far' detector, half a mile underground in the Soudan Mine,
Minnesota, will measure the neutrinos when they arrive, just 2.5
milliseconds later. The detectors have to be a long distance apart to
allow the neutrinos, which travel at close to the speed of light, time
to oscillate. "By comparing these two measurements we will be able to
study how the neutrinos have oscillated and provide the world's most
precise measurement of this effect with muon-type neutrinos" explains
the MINOS UK spokesperson, Geoff Pearce of the CCLRC Rutherford Appleton
Laboratory. "These measurements are eagerly awaited by the scientific
community and will help us to understand the nature of neutrinos and
incorporate this new knowledge into the Standard Model of particle

The MINOS experiment involves scientists, engineers, technical
specialists and students from 32 institutions in 6 countries. The UK
played an important role in the projects' conception and the UK groups
have since been at the core of the international collaboration,
providing a substantial investment in the design and construction of the
detectors as well as preparations for analysis of the data.
Commissioning of the new neutrino beam at Fermilab will continue
throughout February after which the experiment will begin operations.
"This is a very exciting time" says Geoff Pearce, "after all
the hard work designing and constructing the experiment we can't wait
for the data to start flowing and to learn more about neutrinos".

Notes for editors


For more information on MINOS, please see

Standard Model

The Standard Model of Particle Physics, the theory that we have been
using for 30 years to describe the fundamental particles (quarks and
leptons) and forces (bosons) works extremely well. It has successfully
predicted and accounted for what's seen in experiments at LEP (the Large
Electron Positron collider at CERN), the Tevatron at Fermilab in the
U.S. and other particle physics experiments.

The Standard Model is a quantum theory that describes the building
blocks of matter in the Universe - the fundamental particles - and how
they interact through the fundamental forces of electromagnetic, strong
and weak. The fourth force (gravity) is not currently part of the model.
In the current Standard Model neutrinos are massless, so adjustments
will have to be made when the neutrino mass spectrum has been

The MINOS Collaboration

Institutions from the USA, UK, Brazil, France and Russia are part of
the MINOS collaboration.
For a full list (with contact details), please see:

UK institutions involved are: Cambridge University, CCLRC Rutherford
Appleton Laboratory, Oxford University, University of Sussex and
University College London.

The UK groups have provided:
Engineering design
Software for data analysis
Data acquisition for all detectors
Far detector electronics
Calibration detector at CERN (MINOS third detector) - used to calibrate
the 'near' and 'far' detectors by using a beam of
better-understood particles (electrons, pions, muons and protons) from
Near detector readout (fibre optic cables, photo multiplier tubes and
Light-injection system to calibrate all 200,000 detector readout


Funding for the MINOS experiment has come from the Office of Science of
the U.S. Department of Energy, the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy
Research Council, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the State of
Minnesota and the University of Minnesota. More than 200 scientists from
Brazil, France, Greece, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States are
involved in the project.

Fermilab is a national laboratory funded by the Office of Science of
the U.S. Department of Energy, operated by Universities Research
Association, Inc.

PPARC has funded the UK's involvement at 6 million, including 2
million worth of hardware. The total project cost is about $180 million,
of which $60 million is on detectors and the balance on the neutrino
beam line from Fermilab.

Contact Details

UK Institutions:

Dr. Geoff. Pearce
UK Spokesperson
CCLRC Rutherford Appleton Lab
Email: G.F.Pearce@rl.ac.uk
Tel + 44 (0) 1235 445676
Fax +44 (0) 1235 446733

Dr Mark Thomson
University of Cambridge
Tel: +44 1223 765122
Fax: +44 1223 353920
e-mail: thomson@hep.phy.cam.ac.uk

Prof. Jenny Thomas
University College, London
Email: jthomas@hep.ucl.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7679 7159

Dr Alfons Weber
University of Oxford
Tel: +44 (1865) 2-73315
FAX: +44 (1865) 2-73418
Email: A.Weber@physics.ox.ac.uk

Dr. Philip Harris
University of Sussex
E-mail: P.G.Harris@sussex.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1273 877214

Press Offices

Kurt Riesselmann, Fermilab Public Affairs, Tel 001-630-840-3351, Email

Julia Maddock, PPARC Press Office, Tel +44 (0)1793 442094, Email

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) is the
UK's strategic science investment agency. It funds research,
education and public understanding in four areas of science - particle
physics, astronomy, cosmology and space science.

PPARC is government funded and provides research grants and
studentships to scientists in British universities, gives researchers
access to world-class facilities and funds the UK membership of
international bodies such as the European Laboratory for Particle
Physics (CERN), and the European Space Agency. It also contributes money
for the UK telescopes overseas on La Palma, Hawaii, Australia and in
Chile, the UK Astronomy Technology Centre at the Royal Observatory,
Edinburgh and the MERLIN/VLBI National Facility, which includes the
Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank observatory.

PPARC's Public Understanding of Science and Technology Awards Scheme
funds both small local projects and national initiatives aimed at
improving public understanding of its areas of science.


Julia Maddock
Community Press Officer

Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council
Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon, Wiltshire, SN2 1SZ, United
Tel +44 (0)1793 442094, Mobile 07901 514975
Fax +44 (0)1793 442002
Email: julia.maddock@pparc.ac.uk
Web: www.pparc.ac.uk

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