An enormous future particle detector is now within closer reach. The first data from a prototype experiment hint that scientists may have what it takes to build the planned neutrino detector.
Known as the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, or DUNE, the experiment will use 70,000 metric tons of liquefied argon to study the secrets of these neutrinos — bizarre, nearly massless particles that may help reveal why matter is common in the universe but antimatter is rare. DUNE will eventually detect the tracks of charged particles, including electrons and their heavier cousins, muons, that are produced when neutrinos interact.
A smaller prototype built at CERN in Geneva has spotted its first particles, researchers announced September 18. The scaled-down detector traced the paths of muons produced when protons traveling through space slam into Earth’s atmosphere. The prototype is one of two detectors known as ProtoDUNE, which were built to test DUNE’s technology.
Beginning in 2026, DUNE will detect neutrinos beamed from Fermilab in Batavia, Ill. to the detector’s location more than a kilometer underground at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in South Dakota.