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For other uses, see Neutrino (disambiguation).

A neutrino (/nˈtrn/ or /njˈtrn/, originally [nɛuˈtrino]) is an electrically neutral, weakly interacting elementary subatomic particle with half-integer spin. The neutrino (meaning "little neutral one" in Italian) is denoted by the Greek letter ν (nu). All evidence suggests that neutrinos have mass but that their masses are tiny, even by the standards of subatomic particles.

Neutrinos do not carry any electric charge, which means that they are not affected by the electromagnetic force that acts on charged particles, such as electrons and protons. Neutrinos are affected only by the weak subatomic force, which is of much shorter range than electromagnetism, and gravity, which is relatively weak on the subatomic scale. Therefore, a neutrino typically passes through normal matter unimpeded.

Neutrinos can be created in several ways, including in certain types of radioactive decay, in nuclear reactions such as those that take place in the Sun, in nuclear reactors, and when cosmic rays hit atoms. In the Sun, the proton–proton chain reaction begins with the fusion of two protons into helium-2, which immediately undergoes beta decay to deuterium, a positron and an electron neutrino. The process conserves the lepton number by producing a lepton (the neutrino) and an antilepton (the positron). There are three types, or "flavors", of neutrinos: electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos and tau neutrinos. Each type is associated with an antiparticle, called an "antineutrino", which also has neutral electric charge and half-integer spin. Whether or not the neutrino and its corresponding antineutrino are identical particles has not yet been resolved.

Most neutrinos passing through the Earth emanate from the Sun. About 65 billion (6.5×10) solar neutrinos per second pass through every square centimeter perpendicular to the direction of the Sun in the region of the Earth.


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