Weather in Space


How was the existence of neutrinos proven?

The existence of neutrinos was first suggested in 1930 by the Austrian physicist Wolfgang Pauli (1900–1958). He noticed that in a type of radioactive process called beta decay, the range of the total energy given off in observations was greater than theoretical predictions. He reasoned that there must be another type of particle present to account for, and carry away, some of this energy. Since the amounts of energy were so tiny, the hypothetical particle must be very tiny as well and have no electric charge. A few years later, the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi (1901–1954) coined the name “neutrino” for this enigmatic particle. The existence of neutrinos was not experimentally confirmed, however, until 1956, when American physicists Clyde L. Cowan, Jr. (1919–1974) and Frederick Reines (1918–1998) detected neutrinos at a special nuclear facility in Savannah River, South Carolina.


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