Physicists release first results from neutrino experiment at NOvA lab in northern Minnesota

August 11, 2015

What: Presentation on the first results of the NOvA neutrino experiment
Who: University of Minnesota physicists Professor Greg Pawloski and Dr. Jianming Bian
When: Wednesday, Aug. 12, 3 p.m.
Where: University of Minnesota Physics and Nanotechnology Building, Room 110, 115 Union St. SE, Minneapolis

University of Minnesota physicists Greg Pawloski and Jianming Bian will present the first results from one of the world’s largest physics experiments based at the NOvA lab in northern Minnesota. The seminar is free and open to the public.

The seminar by Pawloski and Bian, will include an introduction to the experiment, first results from both the muon- and electron-appearance measurements, and plans and prospects for NOvA and future neutrino experiments.

Scientists involved in the U.S. Department of Energy’s NOvA experiment recently saw their first evidence of oscillating ghostly particles, called neutrinos. This confirms that the extraordinary detector built in northern Minnesota for the project, not only functions as planned, but also is making great progress toward its goal of understanding the cosmos, including antimatter, dark matter and the Higgs boson.

NOvA, the world’s leading long-baseline neutrino-oscillation experiment, uses a beam originating 500 miles away at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago to measure electron-neutrino appearance and muon-neutrino disappearance with a 14,000-ton detector located in Ash River, Minn. The goal is to learn more about the abundant yet mysterious neutrinos, which flit through ordinary matter as though it wasn’t there.

The University of Minnesota is by far the largest university group in NOvA, which is the flagship experiment of the U.S. neutrino program. Construction of the far detector lab in Ash River was led by Professor Marvin Marshak and the assembly of the more than 11,000 far detector modules was led by Professor Ken Heller. In addition to University of Minnesota faculty and graduate students, dozens of University staff members and more than 500 undergraduate students contributed to the construction project.

Installation of the massive five-story far detector, one of the world’s largest plastic structures, was completed nearly 18 months ago and since then the collaboration has been operating the experiment and collecting data. The analysis framework was created by a team of graduate students and research associates led by University of Minnesota Professors Dan Cronin-Hennessy, Ken Heller, Greg Pawloski, and Ron Poling.

“This is a great milestone for the School of Physics and Astronomy, College of Science and Engineering and the entire University of Minnesota,” said Professor Ron Poling, head of the University of Minnesota School of Physics and Astronomy and member of the NOvA collaboration.   

These initial results from the NOvA experiment represent only about 8 percent of the total data the experiment will collect over the next few years. Even with this small initial data set, Pawloski describes the results as possibly hinting at the ordering of neutrino masses and matter-antimatter asymmetry.

The NOvA collaboration includes 210 scientists and engineers from 39 institutions in the United States, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Greece, India, Russia and the United Kingdom.

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