The OPERA experiment in the Gran Sasso tunnel in Italy recently shocked the physics world by announcing that they had clocked neutrinos violating that ultimate of speed limits – the speed of light. Most scientists, upon hearing the news, rightly reacted with skepticism, and the results were closely examined to unearth any unaccounted-for sources of error that could have resulted in an incorrect measurement. On November 17th, the OPERA collaboration responded by pushing a new paper to the arXiv that eliminated one of their systematics, the length of the neutrino pulses received from CERN, and found that their data still show a significant superluminal signal.
Yesterday, after rumors surfaced on the Science Insider blog that OPERA’s startling superluminal result had been traced to a faulty cable, the collaboration sent out a press release stating that they had uncovered two previously unaccounted-for errors. Astronomers in particular have been skeptical of OPERA’s results based on an event that, coincidentally, occurred exactly 25 years ago today: the arrival of the neutrino pulse from Supernova 1987A. SN1987A is the closest supernova ever observed in modern times and still the only one for which we have detected the associated neutrino pulse, and it bloomed this night 25 years ago in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Several weeks ago, the OPERA experiment announced that they had measured neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light. The neutrinos, which traveled from CERN to the Gran Sasso Laboratory, arrived at the detector 60 nanoseconds earlier than light (with statistical errors of 6.9 ns and systematic errors of 7.4 ns).
A collection of thoughts about AAS events throughout Thursday.