MINOS (or Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) is a particle physics experiment designed to study the phenomena of neutrino oscillations, first discovered by Super-Kamiokande experiment in 1998. Neutrinos produced at Fermilab by the NuMI ("Neutrinos at Main Injector") beamline are observed at two detectors, one very close to where the beam is produced (the near detector), and another much larger detector 735 km away in northern Minnesota (the far detector).
The MINOS experiment started detecting neutrinos from the NuMI beam in February 2005. On 30 March 2006, the MINOS collaboration announced that the analysis of the initial data, collected in 2005, is consistent with neutrino oscillations, with the oscillation parameters which are consistent with Super-K measurements.
There are two detectors in the experiment.
The near detector is similar to the far detector in design, but smaller in size with a mass of 980 tons (t). It is located at Fermilab, a few hundred meters away from the proton target, and approximately 100 meters underground. The commissioning of the near detector was completed in December 2004, and it is now fully operational.
Both MINOS detectors are steel-scintillator sampling calorimeters made out of alternating planes of magnetized steel and plastic scintillators. The magnetic field causes the path of a muon produced in a muon neutrino interaction to bend, making it possible to distinguish interactions with neutrinos from those with antineutrinos. This feature of the MINOS detectors allows MINOS to search for CPT-violation with atmospheric neutrinos and anti-neutrinos.
To produce the NuMI beamline 120 GeV Main Injector proton pulses hit a water-cooled graphite target. The resulting interactions of protons with the target material produce pions and kaons, which are focused by a system of magnetic horns. The neutrinos from subsequent decays of pions and kaons form the neutrino beam. Most of these are muon neutrinos, with a small electron neutrino contamination. Neutrino interactions in the near detector are used to measure the initial neutrino flux and energy spectrum. Because they are so weakly interacting, the vast majority of the neutrinos travel through the near detector and the 734 km of rock, then through the far detector and off into space. On the way toward Soudan, about 20% of the muon neutrinos oscillate into other flavors.
Physics goals and results
MINOS measures the difference in neutrino beam composition and energy distribution in the near and far detectors with the aim of producing precision measurements of the neutrino squared mass difference and mixing angle. In addition, MINOS looks for the appearance of electron neutrinos in the far detector, and will either measure or set a limit on the oscillation probability of muon neutrinos into electron neutrinos.
On 29 July 2006, the MINOS collaboration published a paper giving their initial measurements of oscillation parameters as judged from muon neutrino disappearance. These are: Δm2
^ "MINOS experiment sheds light on mystery of neutrino disappearance". Press release. 30 March 2006. Retrieved 2009-08-03.
Coordinates: 47°49′12″N 92°14′30″W