Neutrinos are fundamental particles ubiquitous in the Universe and whose properties remain elusive despite more than 50 years of intense research activity. This review illustrates the importance of solar neutrinos in astrophysics, nuclear physics and particle physics. After a description of the historical context, we remind the reader of the noticeable properties of these particles and of the stakes of the solar neutrino puzzle. The standard solar model triggered persistent efforts in fundamental physics to predict the solar neutrino fluxes, and its constantly evolving predictions have been regularly compared with the detected neutrino signals. Anticipating that this standard model could not reproduce the internal solar dynamics, a seismic solar model was developed which enriched theoretical neutrino flux predictions with in situ observation of acoustic and gravity waves propagating in the Sun. This seismic model contributed to the stabilization of the neutrino flux predictions. This review recalls the main historical steps, from the pioneering Homestake mine experiment and the GALLEX-SAGE experiments capturing the first proton-proton neutrinos. It emphasizes the importance of the SuperKamiokande and SNO detectors. Both experiments demonstrated that the solar-emitted electron neutrinos are partially transformed into other neutrino flavors before reaching the Earth. This sustained experimental effort opens the door to neutrino astronomy, with long-base lines and underground detectors. The success of BOREXINO in detecting the 7Be neutrino signal alone instills confidence in physicists' ability to detect each neutrino source separately. It justifies the building of a new generation of detectors to measure the entire solar neutrino spectrum in greater detail, as well as supernova neutrinos. A coherent picture has emerged from neutrino physics and helioseismology. Today, new paradigms take shape in these two fields: neutrinos are massive particles, but their masses are still unknown, and the research on the solar interior focuses on the dynamical aspects and on the signature of dark matter. The magnetic moment of the neutrino begins to be an actor in stellar evolution. The third part of the review is dedicated to this prospect. The understanding of the crucial role of both rotation and magnetism in solar physics benefits from SoHO, SDO and PICARD space observations, and from a new prototype, GOLF-NG. The magnetohydrodynamical view of the solar interior is a new way of understanding the impact of the Sun on the Earth's environment and climate. For now, the particle and stellar challenges seem decoupled, but this is only a superficial appearance. The development of asteroseismology—with the COROT and KEPLER spacecraft—and of neutrino physics will both contribute to improvements in our understanding of, for instance, supernova explosions. This shows the far-reaching impact of neutrino and stellar astronomy.
Reports on Progress in Physics
- Pub Date:
- August 2011
- Astrophysics - Solar and Stellar Astrophysics;
- High Energy Physics - Experiment;
- High Energy Physics - Phenomenology
- 60 pages, 12 figures Invited review in press in Report on Progress in Physics