How do ‘accidental’ discoveries happen in physics?

Expecting antineutrinos from the sun, but getting them from a supernova

After a huge amount of work carried out by scientists to find a coherent theoretical scheme or to create experimental unit, new knowledge comes as it were perfectly normal. An important example of this is the registration of antineutrinos from supernova SN 1987A by the experimental unit Kamiokande II, which marked the beginning of neutrino astronomy. That unit built mainly for registration of solar and atmospheric neutrinos has just been turned on and gained data in those few seconds when the antineutrinos from the outbreak of the star reached Earth, having flown 170 thousand years. The obtained data confirmed the theory of origin of supernovae and gave an upper estimate of the neutrino mass.

Neutrinos from the explosion of an old star -- a supernova

Fortunately, the antineutrino flux from the supernova came exactly when the Kamiokande II was working.


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