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Light shed on mysterious particle

31 March 2006

Physicists have confirmed that neutrinos, which are thought to have played a key role during the creation of the Universe, have mass.

This is the first major finding of the US-based Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search (Minos) experiment. …

These are the first results from the Minos experiment, which has involved scientists from 32 institutions in six countries. …

In the longer term, the findings may also help us to better understand the mystery of "missing mass" in the Universe.

"Various observations show there appears to be much more mass in the Universe than is visible," said Professor Jenny Thomas [UCL Physics & Astronomy], a member of the Minos team.

"We are surrounded by neutrinos, so in every cubic centimetre there are hundreds at any instant.

"To put it simply, if they are heavy, it means that there is a lot more mass in the Universe than we thought there was."

Neutrinos are also thought to have played an important role in the formation of the Universe. The Minos findings and future ones may help to shed light on how matter formed, and why so much of the Universe's antimatter has disappeared.

Rebecca Morelle, BBC News Online