Neutrino Physics in the Frontiers of Intensities and Very High Sensitivities
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Residual Symmetries Applied to Neutrino Oscillations at NOA and T2K
Abstract
The results previously obtained from the modelindependent application of a generalized hidden horizontal symmetry to the neutrino mass matrix are updated using the latest global fits for the neutrino oscillation parameters. The resulting prediction for the Dirac phase is in agreement with recent results from T2K. The distribution for the Jarlskog invariant has become sharper and appears to be approaching a particular region. The approximate effects of matter on longbaseline neutrino experiments are explored, and it is shown how the weak interactions between the neutrinos and the particles that make up the Earth can help to determine the mass hierarchy. A similar strategy is employed to show how NOA and T2K could determine the octant of . Finally, the exact effects of matter are obtained numerically in order to make comparisons with the form of the approximate solutions. From this analysis there emerge some interesting features of the effective mass eigenvalues.
1. Introduction
Although there has been significant progress in neutrino physics from oscillation experiments, there remains much work to be done. The reactor angle has now been measured to greater accuracy than ever before, and the solar angle has been known for some time now. But, the octant of the atmospheric angle ( or ) or whether this angle is maximal () has yet to be answered. Determination of the Dirac phase has been improved. Recent results from T2K exclude at C.L. for normal hierarchy (NH) and for inverted hierarchy (IH) [1]. Finally, the absolute value of the mass squared differences has been carefully measured, but the mass hierarchy is still undetermined (i.e., or ). Each of these questions will be discussed in this work.
From the improvements in recent global analyses [2–4] it is possible to make more accurate predictions for the distributions of some of the aforementioned parameters of interest. Specifically, each of the residual symmetries, and , can be used to derive a modelindependent equation for (one for each symmetry) [5, 6]. Then using the newly available global fits of the neutrino oscillation parameters in [2], likelihood distributions for , the Jarlskog invariant [7], and are obtained.
Using the PMNS mixing matrix, an expression for the probability of a neutrino originally of flavor to be detected as a neutrino of flavor , is presented (which is a standard result found in many review papers on neutrino physics [8]). Then, using the approximation from [9] it is shown how the earth’s matter affects the neutrino beam in longbaseline experiments. This is done by replacing the oscillation parameters with effective values that depend on the energy of the neutrinos, the baseline length, and the density of the matter.
In this paper, a focus is made on the NOA and T2K experiments. Both of these experiments measure the appearance of ’s (’s) from a beam. The probability for this appearance is plotted as a function of energy using the best fits for the oscillation parameters in [2]. The effects of matter are taken into account using the average matter density along the baseline for the two experiments. This is justified by the fact that there does not appear to be a significant effect due to the variation of the matter density [10]. A comparison is made for this probability with and without violation in an attempt to observe the sensitivity of NOA and T2K to measurements of . We have also plotted versus which shows that it may be possible for these experiments to determine the neutrino mass hierarchy for some values of the phase as discussed in [11, 12].
The update of the analysis of [13] given in [2] gives closer agreement on with the other two major global analyses [3, 4]. This shows that is closer to being maximal than originally believed and only excludes the possibility of it being maximal by about for inverted hierarchy. But, it is clear that the analyses do not agree upon which octant is favored. Fortunately, the plots of versus may also serve to determine the octant of [11, 12].
This work is concluded with a digression into the effective mixing angles and masses in matter. The solar resonance, first described by the MSW effect [14–16], and the atmospheric resonance are readily observed.
2. Distribution of , , and
The equations for , in terms of the neutrino mixing angles, based on residual symmetries are given by [5, 6] for and respectively, where and . The latest global fits for the neutrino oscillation parameters from [2] are shown in Table 1.

From this we can obtain a distribution for following the procedure in [5, 6] by using where , the ’s are proportional to , and RHS of (1a), (1b). Because it is preferable to get a distribution with respect to rather than we use where and . Since this is a numerical integral, the delta function cannot be used as it is normally defined (unless integrated out of the equation prior to the numerical calculation). The integral was evaluated using a Monte Carlo algorithm and the results are shown in Figure 1(a). The domain of in (3) is , but the distributions in Figure 1(a) can be reflected about to account for the full interval . Therefore, these distributions have been normalized to over the domain shown in the figures. This means that each of the residual symmetries will have two peak predictions for the phase (equidistant from ). The IH curve for in [2] is closer to being symmetric about . This is very prevalent in the results shown in Figure 1(a) given that the IH plots are close to being symmetric about . But, since the NH global fit favors the lower octant for by at least [2] the predicted distributions for NH tend to prefer one side of . But in both cases the results for are in agreement with the best fit value of from T2K’s latest results [1].
(a)
(b)
(c)
The same method is applied to the Jarlskog invariant [7]; that is, with . This distribution is shown in Figure 1(b). When calculating these distributions, is taken to be in the interval and is even about the vertical axis to extend to include . To account for this, the figures are labeled for the distribution of , and they can therefore be normalized to one. As compared with our previous results in [6], is beginning to favor the region that prefers. Also, the region predicted by has become slightly narrower and it now excludes .
Finally, this method is again applied similarly to by first using (1a), (1b) to solve for for and , respectively. Then we have with , where RHS of (5a), (5b). To get a distribution for we use The distribution is shown in Figure 1(c), where plots are made with and without using the prior on from [2]. When no prior on is used, becomes evenly distributed in . As previously discussed in [6], is symmetric about when there is no prior on . In addition, the distributions using the prior on have also become more symmetric, as a result of the for also having become more symmetric about zero.
3. to Oscillation
Now that we have a distribution for all the neutrino oscillation parameters, an attempt can be made to predict the results of an experiment measuring the number of ’s that oscillate into ’s over some distance. First, the expression for this probability, , must be found. Denoting the weak eigenstates of the neutrino by and the neutrino mass eigenstates by , then defines the PMNS mixing matrix, . The standard parametrization is given by [9] where From [8], which leads to where , is the th mass eigenvalue, is the distance propagated by the neutrino, and is the energy of the neutrino. Notice that this probability does not depend on the Majorana phases, and therefore a discussion on these phases will not be pursued here.
Making the following definition [9]: and noting that , then The last term includes the Jarlskog invariant [7] defined above.
3.1. Matter Effects
As electron neutrinos propagate through the earth, they can interact with electrons via exchange. In addition, all three neutrino flavors can interact with electrons, protons, or neutrons via exchange. Assuming electrically neutral matter, the exchange between the neutrinos and protons will exactly cancel with the exchange between the neutrinos and electrons [8]. The contribution from exchange can be dropped, because it only adds a multiple of the identity matrix to the Hamiltonian [9]. Then, under the assumption that , the effect of exchange can be accounted for by modifying the Hamiltonian for neutrinos [17] where and is the density of electrons. For antineutrinos, the Hamiltonian is simply the complex conjugate of (15) with .
One way to proceed is to diagonalize the Hamiltonian exactly, which has been done analytically [17–19]. However, this does not give much physical insight into the effects of matter on neutrino oscillations. Approximations in which the mixing angles and mass eigenvalues are replaced by effective values do not modify any of the equations, and therefore it becomes clear how matter affects neutrinos. A number of approximation schemes have been developed [20–26]. One of the most commonly used of these are the equations derived in [26]. But, due to the large value of measured at Daya Bay [27], the approximation in [26] begins to fail as is shown in [9]. In the approximation that is used here, the form of (14) can be used with the following modifications [9]: with where for neutrinos let and for antineutrinos let with the upper sign for normal hierarchy and the lower sign for inverted hierarchy.
It is helpful to show and in conventional units. Following [9]
3.2. NOA and T2K
NOA is a longbaseline neutrino oscillation experiment located in northern Minnesota. It has a baseline length of 810 km, an average matter density of 2.8 g/cm^{3} along this baseline, and a peak neutrino energy around 2 GeV [11]. T2K is another neutrino oscillation experiment with similar goals to that of NOA. Its baseline length is 295 km and has an average matter density of 2.6 g/cm^{3}, and the neutrino beam energy peaks around 0.6 GeV [28].
With the use of the effective mixing angles derived in the previous section, the probability of the appearance of a from a beam can be determined for any matter density. Using the length and matter density for the two experiments in question, plots of these probabilities are shown in Figure 2 as a function of energy.
(a)
(b)
It is not entirely apparent that the approximation [9] is valid for different values of the phase or the vacuum mixing angles; therefore, a comparison is made between this approximation and the exact results in the Appendix. In this comparison, the exact results are found by numerically diagonalizing the Hamiltonian. As it turns out, the approximation is very good for the energies and densities considered here.
4. Determination of the Mass Hierarchy and the Octant of
As has been mentioned previously, a major goal of neutrino oscillation experiments is to determine the mass hierarchy. If was a good symmetry, then there would be no observable difference between and when the neutrinos are propagating through a vacuum. However, interestingly enough, the matter effects discussed previously emulate the effects of violation. Therefore, there is an observable difference between and even if is a good symmetry. Without the effects of matter the difference between oscillation probabilities for normal hierarchy versus inverted hierarchy is minimal. Thus it is because of the interactions with matter that allow for a discernible difference between normal and inverted hierarchy.
It is possible that actual violation is substantially cancelled by this matter induced violation. This would be very unfortunate, because it would make the determination of the phase more difficult than expected. A plot for versus is shown in Figure 3 for NOA and T2K using the best fits from [2]. It can be seen that there are many values of the phase that will allow NOA to make a serious determination of the true mass hierarchy. This will occur if with NH being the true hierarchy or with IH being the true hierarchy. And since T2K has excluded most of at C.L. [1], hopefully the true mass hierarchy is normal. From Figure 3(b) it appears that T2K will not be able to determine the mass hierarchy in this manner.
(a)
(b)
In addition, it may also be possible to determine the octant of from similar plots. These are shown in Figure 4. It appears that every value of the phase could at least give some indication of the true octant of , but the best values would be for the lower octant and for the higher octant.
(a)
(b)
The ellipses were created by using (14) with the matter effect modifications of (16), for all possible values of (i.e., ). The and the symbols correspond to the predicted values for , based on and , respectively. The predicted values are determined by using the best fits from [2] in (1a), (1b).
5. Effective Masses and Mixing Angles in Matter
The values of the effective mixing angles are plotted in Figure 5 and the mass eigenvalues in Figure 6, as functions of energy using the matter density for the NOA experiment. The plots for T2K are excluded here, because they do not differ much from the ones for NOA. Also, these particular plots consider , because the results depend very little on the phase. These have been plotted by numerically diagonalizing the Hamiltonian. It is assumed that the diagonalization matrix will have the same form as the standard parameterization of the PMNS mixing matrix.
(a)
(b)
(a)
(b)
(c)
(d)
The approximation introduced in Section 3.1 implies that the phase and do not vary much, if at all, due to interactions with matter (which can be observed in Figure 5). It also implies certain characteristics of the variations of the other two mixing angles. From (17a), should be independent of the mass hierarchy, and taking the limit , then () for (). This behavior is easily observed in Figure 5. From (17b), should have similar asymptotic behavior as for normal hierarchy, while it should reverse its behavior for inverted hierarchy. These features are approximately shown in Figure 5, but at the energies shown, is not able to approach its asymptotic limit. Therefore, these results appear to agree with the approximation in [9].
The effective neutrino masses are found from multiplying the eigenvalues of the Hamiltonian by . These plots are shown in Figure 6 for NOA. There are some interesting characteristics of these plots. The first and most obvious are two resonances referred to as the solar resonance and the atmospheric resonance which represent the condition for maximal oscillation probability. This phenomenon was first understood with the introduction of the MSW effect [14, 15]. The first peak of is the solar resonance and corresponds to an approach of and followed by a repulsion. The first peak of is the atmospheric resonance and corresponds to an approach of and followed by a repulsion. If the absolute value of the mass eigenvalues crosses, then no resonance can be seen there. If we do not take the absolute value of the mass eigenvalues, then they will never cross each other. This is a wonderful example of level repulsion in quantum mechanics. For more details on these resonances, including a derivation of the resonance condition, see [14–16, 29].
6. Conclusions
Predicted distributions for , , and were updated using the residual symmetries and . It was found that the greater uncertainty in the octant of for IH shown in [2] forced the distributions of for IH to have nearly equal contributions on either side of . This had no significant effect on the distribution for and the prediction for has improved.
By including the effects of matter into the oscillation probabilities, it was shown in Section 4 how NOA stands a good chance of determining the mass hierarchy if and the true hierarchy is normal or if and the true hierarchy is inverted. It was also shown that both NOA and T2K may be capable of nailing down the octant of .
The effects of matter were also shown to give rise to two resonances: the solar resonance and the atmospheric resonance. This behavior can be seen to agree with the approximation used throughout this work [9].
Appendix
Comparison with Solving for Matter Effects Exactly
Here a comparison is made between the approximation used [9] and exact results found from numerically diagonalizing the Hamiltonian. Each plot for and above has been redone without any approximation. The plots in Figure 7 show the difference between these two methods. It is clear that the approximation is indeed very good, with a maximum difference around .
(a)
(b)
Conflict of Interests
The authors declare that there is no conflict of interests regarding the publication of this paper.
Acknowledgments
The authors would like to thank ShaoFeng Ge for the contributions in the early stages of this work. Wayne W. Repko would also like to thank Kendall Mahn for some helpful conversations. All plots in this paper were produced using matplotlib [30]. Wayne W. Repko was supported in part by the National Science Foundation under Grant no. PHY1068020. Duane A. Dicus was supported in part by the U.S. Department of Energy under Award no. DEFG0212ER41830.
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Copyright
Copyright © 2014 Andrew D. Hanlon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The publication of this article was funded by SCOAP^{3}.