Trillions of neutrinos from the sun and other celestial objects pass harmlessly and unnoticed through our bodies each second. These tiny particles are among the most abundant in the universe–a billion times more abundant than those that make up stars, planets, and people–yet among the least understood.
They are challenging to observe, let alone study, because they have no electric charge and mostly pass right through the atoms that make up ordinary matter, very rarely interacting with it.
How do neutrinos work? What role do they play in the evolution of the universe?
Fermilab, in Batavia, Illinois–one of 17 federal scientific laboratories run by the U.S. Department of Energy–hosts of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), an exciting new study of neutrinos. This collaboration, launched in January 2015 and involving more than 1,000 scientists from all over the world, is expected to determine definitively the properties of neutrinos, the dynamics of the supernovae that produced the heavy elements necessary for life, and the possibility of proton decay.
DUNE will be responsible for designing, building, and operating the detectors required for the experiment. The information they generate will be analyzed by scientists at collaborating institutions.