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Would a Neutron Star Stop a Neutrino?

by Islam Hassan
Tags: neutrino, neutron, star, stop
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Islam Hassan
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Jun14-11, 10:21 AM
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Like the question says, would a neutrino be stopped by the very high density matter in a neutron star?

IH
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bcrowell
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Jun14-11, 10:57 AM
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Googling shows that there are various people trying to calculate this, e.g.,

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9806285
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v133/i4B/pB1046_1

Just as a first guess, I would have expected by default that a neutrino entering a neutron star would have about the same probability of being absorbed as a neutrino entering a main-sequence star, since they encounter about the same amount of mass. The abstract of the second paper talks about a mechanism that produces a deviation from this expectation, causing a neutron star to be completely transparent to neutrinos with low energies.
Vanadium 50
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Jun14-11, 12:26 PM
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The first guess is pretty close. And since we know that probability is low, we know that neutron stars are largely transparent to neutrinos.

Islam Hassan
#4
Jun14-11, 12:55 PM
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Would a Neutron Star Stop a Neutrino?

Quote Quote by bcrowell View Post
Googling shows that there are various people trying to calculate this, e.g.,

http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/9806285
http://prola.aps.org/abstract/PR/v133/i4B/pB1046_1

Just as a first guess, I would have expected by default that a neutrino entering a neutron star would have about the same probability of being absorbed as a neutrino entering a main-sequence star, since they encounter about the same amount of mass. The abstract of the second paper talks about a mechanism that produces a deviation from this expectation, causing a neutron star to be completely transparent to neutrinos with low energies.
Funny, isn't density a factor at all? I would have thought that the sheer density of matter in a neutron star would significantly raise the probability of impact. After all, if you can precisely align a neutrino's trajectory with a nucleon, wouldn't impact be guaranteed? How would impact depend only on the magnitude of mass encountered and not on its spatial 'packing'?

IH
zhermes
#5
Jun14-11, 02:10 PM
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Quote Quote by Islam Hassan View Post
Like the question says, would a neutrino be stopped by the very high density matter in a neutron star?
It is a fairly simple problem to estimate (in an order of magnitude sense), which is much better than guessing. The cross section for interaction between a neutrino and a nucleon (e.g. neutron) is about [tex]\sigma_{n \nu} \approx 10^{-42} \textrm{ cm}^2[/tex]. If you assume a neutron star is ~1.4 solar masses, with a radius of about 10km, composed entirely of nucleons -- you can calculate the mean free path as [tex]l = (n \sigma)^{-1}[/tex], where n is the number density of nucleons.

The mean free path (l) is the average distance a neutrino will go before colliding. If the mean free path is smaller than 10km, you can expect the neutrino to collide; otherwise you would expect it to escape freely.

~~~~~

The exact answer depends on the details of neutron star structure which is still uncertain.
PAllen
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Jun14-11, 02:29 PM
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Quote Quote by Islam Hassan View Post
Funny, isn't density a factor at all? I would have thought that the sheer density of matter in a neutron star would significantly raise the probability of impact. After all, if you can precisely align a neutrino's trajectory with a nucleon, wouldn't impact be guaranteed? How would impact depend only on the magnitude of mass encountered and not on its spatial 'packing'?

IH
I'm not sure this part has been answered. A nucleon is complex object (an acquaintance who assisted programming lattice QCD likened it to weather forecasting, only worse), consisting of quarks and gluons (mostly). From the perspective of a neutrino, it is mostly empty space. Thus, first order, squeezing a given mass into a smaller volume does not change the interaction cross section.

Given that it takes light years of lead to reach 50% chance of absorbing a neutrino, that is enough to conclude that neutrons stars have a small chance of stopping a neutrino.
Islam Hassan
#7
Jun14-11, 02:41 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
I'm not sure this part has been answered. A nucleon is complex object (an acquaintance who assisted programming lattice QCD likened it to weather forecasting, only worse), consisting of quarks and gluons (mostly). From the perspective of a neutrino, it is mostly empty space. Thus, first order, squeezing a given mass into a smaller volume does not change the interaction cross section.

Given that it takes light years of lead to reach 50% chance of absorbing a neutrino, that is enough to conclude that neutrons stars have a small chance of stopping a neutrino.
What if we assume that a good deal of the center of a neutron star is quark gluon plasma; would that enhance the chances of impact?

IH
PAllen
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Jun14-11, 04:20 PM
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Quote Quote by Islam Hassan View Post
What if we assume that a good deal of the center of a neutron star is quark gluon plasma; would that enhance the chances of impact?

IH
Not unless it were much denser than a neutron. In fact it is less dense.
PAllen
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Jun16-11, 01:15 AM
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Quote Quote by zhermes View Post
It is a fairly simple problem to estimate (in an order of magnitude sense), which is much better than guessing. The cross section for interaction between a neutrino and a nucleon (e.g. neutron) is about [tex]\sigma_{n \nu} \approx 10^{-42} \textrm{ cm}^2[/tex]. If you assume a neutron star is ~1.4 solar masses, with a radius of about 10km, composed entirely of nucleons -- you can calculate the mean free path as [tex]l = (n \sigma)^{-1}[/tex], where n is the number density of nucleons.

The mean free path (l) is the average distance a neutrino will go before colliding. If the mean free path is smaller than 10km, you can expect the neutrino to collide; otherwise you would expect it to escape freely.

~~~~~

The exact answer depends on the details of neutron star structure which is still uncertain.
I verified the given cross section as ballpark (depends sensitively on neutrino energy). I also calculate that the nucleon density in the core of a neutron star is 5*10^38 nucleon/cm^3 (assuming I didn't make a mistake combining various published figures). This gives a rather short mean free path. This suggests both a neutron star and a normal star are likely to absorb a neutrino.

So, unless there is a flaw in the above, my previous answers were incorrect.
zhermes
#10
Jun16-11, 04:20 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
This gives a rather short mean free path.
From that calculation, I get l ~ 1000 cm. Extremely short indeed; neutron stars are definitely opaque to neutrinos.

Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
This suggests both a neutron star and a normal star are likely to absorb a neutrino.
A normal star is very unlikely to absorb a neutrino. The interaction probability is not dependent on only the total mass---as the above calculation indicates. The number density of nucleons scales like [tex]R^{-3}[/tex] while the path-length of interest only scales like R---thus a larger (less dense) distribution is far less effective at absorbing a neutrino.
PAllen
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Jun16-11, 04:30 PM
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Quote Quote by zhermes View Post
From that calculation, I get l ~ 1000 cm. Extremely short indeed; neutron stars are definitely opaque to neutrinos.


A normal star is very unlikely to absorb a neutrino. The interaction probability is not dependent on only the total mass---as the above calculation indicates. The number density of nucleons scales like [tex]R^{-3}[/tex] while the path-length of interest only scales like R---thus a larger (less dense) distribution is far less effective at absorbing a neutrino.
Right. Of course, since the cross section is proportional to neutrino energy squared, and the given figure is ballpark for 1 Mev neurtrinos, if you consider 1 ev neutrinos, you have mean free path of 10^15 cm, even through neutron star core material. So very low energy neutrinos are the ultimate ghost particles.
quasi44
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Jun16-11, 05:10 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
Right. Of course, since the cross section is proportional to neutrino energy squared, and the given figure is ballpark for 1 Mev neurtrinos, if you consider 1 ev neutrinos, you have mean free path of 10^15 cm, even through neutron star core material. So very low energy neutrinos are the ultimate ghost particles.
Based on what we think we knew last week. So when the recent studies in Japan are confirmed, it's either as we thought last week or we have to consider our model flawed in that we had thus far only considered neutrinos of a given type, but now with the possibility that some are linking to a higher state to become a charged particle, we would have to assume an impact; or something else that changes the environmental conditions.
PAllen
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Jun16-11, 05:21 PM
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Quote Quote by quasi44 View Post
Based on what we think we knew last week. So when the recent studies in Japan are confirmed, it's either as we thought last week or we have to consider our model flawed in that we had thus far only considered neutrinos of a given type, but now with the possibility that some are linking to a higher state to become a charged particle, we would have to assume an impact; or something else that changes the environmental conditions.
I could be wrong, but the derivation and formula I reviewed purported to be independent of neutrino flavor, thus not affected by oscillation. Perhaps the extremely small magnetic moment that follows if the Japan results are confirmed would be relevant at low energies. Please explain what you mean by 'linking to a higher state to become a charged particle'. I don't know what that means or how it relates to recent findings.
quasi44
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Jun16-11, 05:30 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
I could be wrong, but the derivation and formula I reviewed purported to be independent of neutrino flavor, thus not affected by oscillation. Perhaps the extremely small magnetic moment that follows if the Japan results are confirmed would be relevant at low energies. Please explain what you mean by 'linking to a higher state to become a charged particle'. I don't know what that means or how it relates to recent findings.
Well, their finding suggested that they are registering hits by neutrinos with an electron, though that is not what they fired. To pick up an electron, it would have to hit something, or have some requirement satisfied as to allow it to take one from something else.
quasi44
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Jun16-11, 05:35 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
I could be wrong, but the derivation and formula I reviewed purported to be independent of neutrino flavor, thus not affected by oscillation. Perhaps the extremely small magnetic moment that follows if the Japan results are confirmed would be relevant at low energies. Please explain what you mean by 'linking to a higher state to become a charged particle'. I don't know what that means or how it relates to recent findings.
Oh, yeah, sorry. Not a charged particle, but a particle pair with charge.
PAllen
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Jun16-11, 05:37 PM
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Quote Quote by quasi44 View Post
Well, their finding suggested that they are registering hits by neutrinos with an electron, though that is not what they fired. To pick up an electron, it would have to hit something, or have some requirement satisfied as to allow it to take one from something else.
This still makes no sense to me. Can you point to a reference?
PAllen
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Jun16-11, 05:46 PM
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From what I see of the recent Japanese results, there is no real surprise at all - just verification of muon->electron neutrino oscillation, and possible quantification of the last previously unknown neutrino mixing angle. There may be relevance for matter-antimatter symmetry, but I just don't see anything that would imply anomalously high cross sections for low energy neutrino interactions.
quasi44
#18
Jun16-11, 06:11 PM
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Quote Quote by PAllen View Post
From what I see of the recent Japanese results, there is no real surprise at all - just verification of muon->electron neutrino oscillation, and possible quantification of the last previously unknown neutrino mixing angle. There may be relevance for matter-antimatter symmetry, but I just don't see anything that would imply anomalously high cross sections for low energy neutrino interactions.
So then we fire muon neutrinos, get back electron neutrinos, and still expect that NOTHING acted on the neutrino, and that nothing other than a matter/antimatter symmetry function has taken place, and that this oscillation conversion is something we should have expected? If so, then what's the point? We aren't talking about a pointless money soak in Japan by the University and the international research partners, or are we?


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