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Title: Space-based measurement of the neutron lifetime using data from the neutron spectrometer on NASA's MESSENGER mission

Abstract

We establish the feasibility of measuring the neutron lifetime via an alternative, space-based class of methods, which use neutrons generated by galactic cosmic ray spallation of planets surfaces and atmospheres. Free neutrons decay via the weak interaction with a mean lifetime of around 880 s. This lifetime constrains the unitarity of the CKM matrix and is a key parameter for studies of Big-Bang nucleosynthesis. However, current laboratory measurements, using two independent approaches, differ by over 4σ. Using data acquired in 2007 and 2008 during flybys of Venus and Mercury by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which was not designed to make this measurement, we estimate the neutron lifetime to be 780 ± 60stat ± 70syst s, thereby demonstrating the viability of this new approach.

Authors:
ORCiD logo; ORCiD logo; ORCiD logo; ORCiD logo; ORCiD logo
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Johns Hopkins Univ., Baltimore, MD (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC), Nuclear Physics (NP)
Contributing Org.:
Durham University, Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory; Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
OSTI Identifier:
1633010
Alternate Identifier(s):
OSTI ID: 1638217; OSTI ID: 1700504
Grant/Contract Number:  
SC0019343
Resource Type:
Published Article
Journal Name:
Physical Review Research
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Name: Physical Review Research Journal Volume: 2 Journal Issue: 2; Journal ID: ISSN 2643-1564
Publisher:
American Physical Society (APS)
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
73 NUCLEAR PHYSICS AND RADIATION PHYSICS; 46 INSTRUMENTATION RELATED TO NUCLEAR SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY; neutron; neutron lifetime; beta decay; lifetime & widths; neutron physics; neutron, lifetime

Citation Formats

Wilson, Jack T., Lawrence, David J., Peplowski, Patrick N., Eke, Vincent R., and Kegerreis, Jacob A. Space-based measurement of the neutron lifetime using data from the neutron spectrometer on NASA's MESSENGER mission. United States: N. p., 2020. Web. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevResearch.2.023316.
Wilson, Jack T., Lawrence, David J., Peplowski, Patrick N., Eke, Vincent R., & Kegerreis, Jacob A. Space-based measurement of the neutron lifetime using data from the neutron spectrometer on NASA's MESSENGER mission. United States. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevResearch.2.023316
Wilson, Jack T., Lawrence, David J., Peplowski, Patrick N., Eke, Vincent R., and Kegerreis, Jacob A. Thu . "Space-based measurement of the neutron lifetime using data from the neutron spectrometer on NASA's MESSENGER mission". United States. https://doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevResearch.2.023316.
@article{osti_1633010,
title = {Space-based measurement of the neutron lifetime using data from the neutron spectrometer on NASA's MESSENGER mission},
author = {Wilson, Jack T. and Lawrence, David J. and Peplowski, Patrick N. and Eke, Vincent R. and Kegerreis, Jacob A.},
abstractNote = {We establish the feasibility of measuring the neutron lifetime via an alternative, space-based class of methods, which use neutrons generated by galactic cosmic ray spallation of planets surfaces and atmospheres. Free neutrons decay via the weak interaction with a mean lifetime of around 880 s. This lifetime constrains the unitarity of the CKM matrix and is a key parameter for studies of Big-Bang nucleosynthesis. However, current laboratory measurements, using two independent approaches, differ by over 4σ. Using data acquired in 2007 and 2008 during flybys of Venus and Mercury by NASA’s MESSENGER spacecraft, which was not designed to make this measurement, we estimate the neutron lifetime to be 780 ± 60stat ± 70syst s, thereby demonstrating the viability of this new approach.},
doi = {10.1103/PhysRevResearch.2.023316},
journal = {Physical Review Research},
number = 2,
volume = 2,
place = {United States},
year = {2020},
month = {6}
}

Journal Article:
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