NOvA

I have written previously that I am working on two experiments: MINOS and NOvA, and I would like to provide a little more detail about what has been happening with NOvA. First, I should explain that the name is an acronym: NuMI Off-axis νe Appearance, then I should explain the acronym within the acronym. NuMI stands for Neutrinos at the Main Injector. Neutrinos are the particles NOvA was designed to study, and the Main Injector is a part of the Fermilab accelerator complex that produces the neutrino beam studied by NOvA.

Some controversy exists about whether the proper name of the experiment is NOvA or NOνA (“v” vs. the neutrino symbol). The neutrino symbol would more accurately represent the name of the experiment, but it is difficult or impossible to find using a search engine. For that reason, and because one of my supervisors prefers it, I shall use the “v.” 

Whatever acronym is used, the project has experienced a resurgence of funding after being nearly cancelled in late 2007. It, like MINOS, consists of two detectors. One will be built at Fermilab; the other will be in a building in northern Minnesota.   The neutrinos travel from Fermilab to northern Minnesota in a few milliseconds.  The two detectors will measure changes in the beam between those two points, which will give us the most precise understanding of these ghostly particles to date.  For a more detailed description of the purpose and physics behind this experiment, I recommend an article written for the College of William & Mary, “Tracking the elusive ghost particle,” featuring my colleague Patricia Vahle.

The latest sign of progress toward making this experiment a reality was the groundbreaking for this new building on May 1. It was attended by several officials, including Congressman Bill Foster, who has a Ph.D. in Physics (like two other members of Congress) and an interesting sense of humor.

As part of the local publicity for this event, the neutrino group at Indiana was called together one morning to pose for a photograph.  It shows us with our arms on a small section of extruded PVC very similar to the extrusions that will be produced for the detectors.  

(Photograph courtesy of Indiana University)
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