The 17 keV Neutrino

In 1985, a tritium beta decay experiment [Sim85] announced to have observed an end of beta decay spectrum compatible with the existence of a new neutrino, with a mass of 17 keV. If stable, this neutrino, to be added to the three families already known, would be a problem for the Standard Model of particle physics and for the cosmological observations. This observation trigerred an important activity experimental or theoretical. It has never been confirmed and has been killed in 1993 [Sch93,Mor93]. Douglas Morrison [Mor93] summarized : “Experiments showing evidence for a heavy neutrino with a mass of 17 keV launched the new particle on an erratic eight-year career, during which it raised questions about the Standard Model of particle physics and about cosmological theories, stimulated many theoretical papers and pushed experimental techniques to their limit. Its demise provides grounds for faith in the efficacy of the scientific method“. Some other reviews: [Fra95,Wie96,Fra07].


Fra07Allan J. Franklin The Discovery and Nondiscovery of Neutrinos: The Reines Cowan Experiment and the 17 keV Neutrino AIP Conference Proceedings 917, 12 (2007)
Fra95Allan Franklin The appearance and disappearance of the 17-keV neutrino Rev. Mod. Phys. 67 (1995) 457
Him93A. HimeDo scattering effects resolve the 17-keV conundrumPhys. Lett. B 299 (1993) 165
Mor93D.R.O. MorrisonThe rise and fall of the 17-keV neutrinoNature 366 (1993) 29
Sch93Bertram Schwarzschild In Old and New Experiments, the 17-KeV Neutrino Goes AwayPhysics Today 46, 4, 17 (1993)
Sim85J.J. SimpsonEvidence for Heavy-Neutrino Emission in Beta-DecayPhys. Rev. Lett. 54 (1985) 1891
Wie96F.E. Wietfeld, E.B. Norman The 17-keV neutrino Physics Reports 273 (1996) 149