The topic today is a fascinant subject in Neutrino Astronomy/Astrophysics/Cosmology. I have talked you in this thread about the cosmic neutrino background () and that the young neutrino Astronomy or neutrino telescopes will become more and more important in the future. The reasons are simple:
1st. If we want to study the early Universe, we need some “new” tool to overcome the last scattering surface as a consequence of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). Neutrinos are such a new tool/probe! They only interact weakly with matter and we suspect that there are some important pieces of information related to the quark and lepton “complementarity” hidden in their mixing parameters.
2nd. Due to the GZK effect, we expect that the flux of cosmic rays will suffer a sudden cut-off at about , or about 8 joules. This Greisen–Zatsepin–Kuzmin limit (GZK limit) is a theoretical upper limit on the energy of cosmic rays, since at some high energy, that can be computed, they would interact with the CMB photons producing a delta particle () which would spoil the observed cosmic rays flux as its decays would not be detected after “a long trip”. Then, it can only be approached when the cosmic rays travel very long distances (hundreds of million light-years or more). Here you are a typical picture of SuperKamiokande cosmic ray detection:
The limit is at the same order of magnitude as the upper limit for energy at which cosmic rays have experimentally been detected. There are some current experiments that “claim” to have observed this GZK effect, but evidence is not conclusive yet as far as I know. Some experiments claim (circa 2013, July) to have observed it, other experiments claim to have observed events well above the GZK limit. The next generation of cosmic ray experiments will confirm this limit from SM physics or they will show us interesting new physics events!
Inspired by the GZK effect, some people have suggested an indirect way to detect the existence of the cosmic relic neutrinos. Remember, cosmic neutrinos have a temperature about if the SM is right, and their associated neutrino density now is about per cubic centimeter per species (neutrino plus antineutrino), or per cubic centimeter including the 3 flavors! Relic neutrinos are almost everywhere, but they are very, very feeble (neutral and weakly interacting) particles. While detecting the temperature is one of the most challenging tests of the standard cosmological model, we can try to detect the existence of these phantom neutrinos using a similar (quantum) trick than the one used in the GZK limit (there the delta particle resonance). If some ultra high energy cosmic ray (likely a neutrino coming from some astrophysical source) hits a “relic neutrino” with energy high enough to produce, say, a Z boson (neutral particle as the neutrino himself), then we should observe a “dip” in the cosmic ray spectrum corresponding to this “Z-burst” event! This mechanism is also called the ZeVatron or the Z-dip. It also shows the deep links between particle physics and Cosmology or Astrophysics. When an ultra-high energy cosmic neutrino collides with a relic anti-neutrino in our galaxy and annihilates to hadrons, this process proceeds via a (virtual) Z-boson:
The cross section for this process becomes large if the center of mass energy of the neutrino-antineutrino pair is equal to the Z-boson mass (such a peak in the cross section is what we call “resonance” in High Energy physics). Assuming that the relic anti-neutrino is at rest, the energy of the incident cosmic neutrino has to be the quantity:
In fact, this mechanism based on “neutral resonances” is completely “universal”! Nothing (except some hidden symmetry or similar) can allow the production of (neutral) particles using this cosmic method. For instance, if this argument is true, beyond the Z-burst, we should be able to detect Higgs-dips (Higgs-bursts) or H-dips, since, similarely we could have
or more generally, with some (likely) “dark” particle, we should also expect that
In the H-dip case, taking the measured Higgs mass from the last LHC run (about 126GeV), we get
In the arbitrary “dark” or “weakly interacting” particle, we have (in general, with ) the formulae:
Therefore, cosmic ray neutrino spectroscopy is a very interesting subject yet to come! It can provide:
1st. Evidences for relic neutrinos we expect from the standard cosmological model.
2nd. Evidence for the Higgs boson in astrophysical scenarios from cosmological neutrinos. Now, we know that the Higgs field and the Higgs particle do exist, so it is natural to seek out this H-dips as well!
3rd. Evidence for the additional neutral weakly interacting (and/or “dark”) particles from “unexpected” dips at ZeV (1ZeV=1Zetta electron-volt) or even higher energies! Of course, this is the most interesting part from the viewpoint of new physics searches!
Moreover, following one of the most interesting things in any research (expect the unexpected and try to explain it!) from the scientific viewpoint, I am quite sure the neutrino astronomy and its interplay with cosmic rays or this class of “neutrino spectroscopy” in the flux of cosmic rays open a very interesting window for the upcoming new physics. Are we ready for it? Maybe…After all, the neutrino mixing parameters are very different (“complementary”?) to the quark mixing parameters. You can observe it in this mass-flavor content plot:
Neutrino oscillations are a purely quantum effect, and thus, they open a really interesting “new channel” in which we can observe the whole Universe. Yes, neutrinos are cool!!! The coolest particles in all over the world! We can not imagine yet what neutrino will show and teach us about the current, past and future of the cosmological evolution.
Remark: When I saw the Fermi line and the claim of the Dark Matter particle “evidence” at about 130 GeV, I wondered if it could be, indeed, a hint of a similar “resonant” process in gamma rays, something like
since the line “peaked” close to the known Higgs-like particle mass (). Anyway, this line is controversial and its presence has yet to be proved with enough statistical confidence (5 sigmas are usually required in the particle physics community). Of course, the issue with this resonant hypothesis would be that we should expect that this particle would decay into hadrons leaving some indirect clues of those events. The Fermi line can indeed have more explanations and/or be a fluke in the data due to a bad modeling or a bad substraction of the background. Time will tell us if the Fermi line is really here as well.
Final (geek) remark: I wonder if the Doctor Who fans remember that the reality bomb of Davros and the Daleks used “Z-neutrinos“!!! I presently do not know if the people who wrote those scripts and imagined the Z-neutrino were aware of the Z-bursts…Or not… LOL The Z-neutrino powered crucible was really interesting…
And the reality bomb concept was really scaring…
However, neutrinos are pretty weakly interacting particles, at least when they have low energy, so we should have not fear them. After all, their future applications will surprise us much more. I am quite sure of it!
See you in my next neutrinological post!
May the Z(X)-burst induced superGZK neutrinos be with you!
There are some indirect constraints/bounds on neutrino masses provided by Cosmology. The most important is the one coming from the demand that the energy density of the neutrinos should not be too high, otherwise the Universe would collapse and it does not happen, apparently…
Firstly, stable neutrinos with low masses (about ) make a contribution to the total energy density of the Universe given by:
and where the total mass is defined to be the quantity
Here, the number of degrees of freedom for Dirac (Majorana) neutrinos in the framework of the Standard Model. The number density of the neutrino sea is revealed to be related to the photon number density by entropy conservation (entropy conservation is the key of this important cosmological result!) in the adiabatic expansion of the Universe:
From this, we can derive the relationship of the cosmic relic neutrino background (neutrinos coming from the Big Bang radiation when they lost the thermal equilibrium with photons!) or and the cosmic microwave background (CMB):
From the CMB radiation measurements we can obtain the value
for a perfect Planck blackbody spectrum with temperature
This CMB temperature implies that the temperature should be about
Remark: if you do change the number of neutrino degrees of freedom you also change the temperature of the and the quantity of neutrino “hot dark matter” present in the Universe!
Moreover, the neutrino density is related to the total neutrino density and the critical density as follows:
and where the critical density is about
When neutrinos “decouple” from the primordial plasma and they loose the thermal equilibrium, we have , and then we get
with the reduced Hubble constant. Recent analysis provide (PLANCK/WMAP).
There is another useful requirement for the neutrino density in Cosmology. It comes from the requirements of the BBN (Big Bang Nucleosynthesis). I talked about this in my Cosmology thread. Galactic structure and large scale observations also increase evidence that the matter density is:
These values are obtained through the use of the luminosity-density relations, galactic rotation curves and the observation of large scale flows. Here, the is the total mass density of the Universe as a fraction of the critical density . This includes radiation (photons), bayrons and non-baryonic “cold dark matter” (CDM) and “hot dark matter” (HDM). The two first components in the decomposition of
are rather well known. The photon density is
The deuterium abundance can be extracted from the BBN predictions and compared with the deuterium abundances in the stellar medium (i.e. at stars!). It shows that:
The HDM component is formed by relativistic long-lived particles with masses less than about . In the SM framework, the only HDM component are the neutrinos!
The simulations of structure formation made with (super)computers fit the observations ONLY when one has about 20% of HDM plus 80% of CDM. A stunning surprise certainly! Some of the best fits correspond to neutrinos with a total mass about 4.7eV, well above the current limit of neutrino mass bounds. We can evade this apparent contradiction if we suppose that there are some sterile neutrinos out there. However, the last cosmological data by PLANCK have decreased the enthusiasm by this alternative. The apparent conflict between theoretical cosmology and observational cosmology can be caused by both unprecise measurements or our misunderstanding of fundamental particle physics. Anyway observations of distant objects (with high redshift) favor a large cosmological constant instead of Hot Dark Matter hypothesis. Therefore, we are forced to conclude that the HDM of does not exceed even . Requiring that , we get that . Using the relationship with the total mass density, we can deduce that the total neutrino mass (or HDM in the SM) is about
Mass limits, in this case lower limits, for heavy or superheavy neutrinos ( or higher) can also be obtained along the same reasoning. The puzzle gets very different if the neutrinos were “unstable” particles. One gets then joint bounds on mass and timelife, and from them, we deduce limits that can overcome the previously seen limits (above).
There is another interesting limit to the density of neutrinos (or weakly interacting dark matter in general) that comes from the amount of accumulated “density” in the halos of astronomical objects. This is called the Tremaine-Gunn limit. Up to numerical prefactors, and with the simplest case where the halo is a singular isothermal sphere with , the reader can easily check that
Imposing the phase space bound at radius r then gives the lower bound
This bound yields . This is the Tremaine-Gunn bound. It is based on the idea that neutrinos form an important part of the galactic bulges and it uses the phase-space restriction from the Fermi-Dirac distribution to get the lower limit on the neutrino mass. I urge you to consult the literature or google to gather more information about this tool and its reliability.
Remark: The singular isothermal sphere is probably a good model where the rotation curve produced by the dark matter halo is flat, but certainly breaks down at small radius. Because the neutrino mass bound is stronger for smaller , the uncertainty in the halo core radius (interior to which the mass density saturates) limits the reliability of this neutrino mass bound. However, some authors take it seriously! As Feynman used to say, everything depends on the prejudges you have!
The abundance of additional weakly interacting light particles, such as a light sterile neutrino or additional relativistic degrees of freedom uncharged under the Standard Model can change the number of relativistic degrees of freedom . Sometimes you will hear about the number . Planck data, recently released, have decreased the hopes than we would be finding some additional relativistic degree of freedom that could mimic neutrinos. It is also constrained by the BBN and the deuterium abundances we measured from astrophysical objects. Any sterile neutrino or extra relativistic degree of freedom would enter into equilibrium with the active neutrinos via neutrino oscillations! A limit on the mass differences and mixing angle with another active neutrino of the type
should be accomplished in principle. From here, it can be deduced that the effective number of neutrino species allowed by neutrino oscillations is in fact a litle higher the the 3 light neutrinos we know from the Z-width bound:
PLANCK data suggest indeed that . However, systematical uncertainties in the derivation of the BBN make it too unreliable to be taken too seriously and it can eventually be avoided with care.