duree vie neutron mystere univers

The lifespan of neutrons to unravel the mystery of the early Universe

The universe was warmer and denser in the past than it is today. Today, although the situation has changed, there are still microwaves left over from the Big Bang. They are known as “Cosmological diffuse background”. The latter marks the limit of what we can see.

The cosmological background dates from a time when the universe already had about 380,000 years. Although researchers tried to find clues to what existed before the big bang, there are still several unresolved questions. At that time, the fundamental forces of the universe acted differently. To better understand the big bang, we must therefore take an interest in it.

The half-life of neutrons to understand the front big bang

Along with protons, neutrons make up the nuclei of atoms. In an atomic nucleus, neutrons can be extremely stable. Corn when a neutron is alone, it usually decays into a few minutes. The rate of neutron decay is usually expressed in terms of half-life. In other words, the time after which a neutron has a 1 in 2 chance of decaying.

There are several ways to measure the half-life of neutrons. It is, for example, possible to measure a beam neutrons or cool. But we can also trap in a magnetic bottle. Unfortunately, their results are all different.

There may be a systematic error in the methods, but this divergence is a problem for fundamental physics. In contrast, a new study measured neutron decay in a third way: using a spatialship in orbit around the Moon.

A spaceship to the rescue of researchers

The Moon’s airless surface is constantly bombarded by cosmic rays. Sometimes a cosmic ray sends a neutron out of the lunar surface. When the neutron moves away from the Moon, it has a chance to decay.

The team therefore used the satellite Lunar Prospector of NASA to count the number of neutrons at different orbital heights. From these data, they came to the conclusion that the lifetime of the neutrons was 887 seconds.

The result is not precise enough to solve the problem of neutron decay, but it shows that spacecraft provide very precise results. In all, this is a notable advance in the scientific world. Will other solutions still emerge, or will we have to fully accept the latter?

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