|Washington, DC: An international team comprising Princeton University scientists has discovered subatomic particles - geo-neutrinos - deep within the Earth's interior. The finding could help explain how reactions taking place in the planet's core affect events on the surface.
The discovery, made by the Borexino Collaboration at the Gran Sasso National Laboratory of the Italian Institute of Nuclear Physics, appears in a paper published in the April issue ofPhysics Letters B.
The work builds on earlier evidence of so-called "geoneutrinos" obtained during a Japanese experiment in 2005.
Frank Calaprice, a professor of physics at Princeton and one of the study's authors, said: "This is an important result. It shows that geoneutrinos have been detected and firmly establishes a new tool to study the interior of the Earth."
Neutrinos, which are chargeless, inert, fundamental particles, are emitted by the sun and cosmic rays entering the Earth's atmosphere. Geoneutrinos are antineutrinos - neutrinos' antimatter counterparts. Geoneutrinos originate from the radioactive decay of uranium, thorium and potassium in the Earth's crust and mantle -the thick layer extending to 1,800 miles below the surface.
At laboratories like Gran Sasso, researchers are using instruments that act as geoneutrino "telescopes," looking into the Earth's interior by detecting these curious particles.
Scientists expect that geoneutrinos will aid them in better identifying what constitutes matter deep within the Earth.
Thomas Duffy, a professor of geosciences at Princeton, who was not involved in the research, said: "It's a very significant discovery and holds much promise for better understanding the composition of the Earth and how the Earth operates."