Supernova neutrinos

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Neutrinos produced in a stellar collapse

During the collapse of a star, about 1057 neutrinos are produced.

The observations of SN1987A

Progenitor: Sandulaek -890 202 at Large Magellanic Cloud. Mass 15-18 solar masses.

Optical observation 24 February 1987. Neutrino observations at February 23 7:35 UTC: Observations of SN1987A
The dashed lines are observations of IMB [ref] and the continuos lines are of Kamiokande. [ref] The horizontal axis is time in seconds and the vertical axis is energy in MeV.

NEW: Observations of IMB

Photos displaying the computer output of the events recorded by the IMB detector (23 February 1987):
33162 33164 33167 33168 33170 33173 33179 33184,
courtesy of Prof Jack van der Velde.

The viewer's eye has been placed at the origin of what is probably an (anti)neutrino interaction on a proton giving a positron and a neutron. The neutron goes undetected but a positron produces a cone of Cherenkiv light in the water which is detected by some of the 2048 photomultiplier tubes (PMT's) arrayed on the six walls of the detector. Each wall is divided into rectangular patches outlined by a given color (red, blue, yellow). The small dashes and crosses represent outputs of individual PMT's. The number of lines is proportional to the light that hit the PMT and the color repserents the time of the hits. The time-color scale (in nanoseconds) is shown on the left.

The cones of Cherenkov light don't produce exact circles of PMT hits due to scattering and showering of the positrons in water. The best circle is event 33167. Event 33170 shows a Cherenkov cone grazing the blue and orange walls and then hitting the red wall head-on about 60 ns later.

The eight events came within a time itnerval of about 5 seconds, whereas the normal rate of such low energy events originating on the interior of the detector was about one every week. Hence the odds against these events being a statistical fluke are truly astronomical.

Properties of the supernova

One can make the following estimations from the neutrino and photon observations of SN1987A

  • energy emitted in antineutrinos (3-6) 10 45 J
  • energy emitted in all neutrinos (2 ± 1) 10 46 J
  • kinetic energy (1.4 ± 0.1) 10 44 J
  • the duration of the neutrino pulse 13 seconds

Implications of the observations of SN1987A for neutrino propeties

To be added.

Future supernovae

Existing or planned detectors capable of detecting neutrinos from supernovae:

Experiment location type direction? spectrum? threshold energy Expected events Starting year
Homestake U.S.A. radiochemical no no 0.8 MeV 6 1970
SAGE Baksan radiochemical no no 0.233 MeV 1 1990
Gallex Gran Sasso radiochemical no no 0.233 MeV 1 1990-1997
GNO Gran Sasso radiochemical no no 0.233 MeV 1 1998-
SuperKamiokande Japan water Cerenkov yes yes 5 MeV 4000 1996-
SNO Canada Cerenkov + yes yes 5 MeV 800 1999
Borexino Gran Sasso liquid scintillator no yes 0.25 MeV 20 2000
LVD Gran Sasso liquid scintillator no yes 5- 7 MeV 300-700 1991
Macro Gran Sasso liquid scintillator
streamer tube
no yes 7 MeV 150 1989
ICARUS Gran Sasso liquid argon     5 10 1999?
Amanda South Pole ice Cerenkov at GeVs at GeVs 0.5 MeV 20 000 1995
Baksan Caucasus liquid scintillator     8 MeV 50 1980
LSND Los Alamos liquid scintillator     5 MeV 70  
Iodine Homestake radiochemical     0.664 MeV 25 200?

Direction and spectrum refer to the ability of the detector to estimate (even statistically) the direction and energy spectrum of the neutrino burst. Expected events counts the number of events for a galactic supernova, inside 10 kpc. This is only an order of magnitude estimate. The efficiency of the detector may vary during the planning, the construction and the run.

Other supernova pages in the web

Supernova pages by Marcos Montes: a huge list of links.
SuperNova Early Warning System (SNEWS)
International Supernovae Network - amateur and professional supernova hunters

Sungweb: SUpernova Neutrino Generation tool by Jorge Zuluaga

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Last modified 17.1.2003 (webmaster)