According to the British newspaper “Daily Mail”, rare emissions, which traveled 90 million miles to reach us, are produced in some nuclear reactions that represent less than a percentage of the sun’s energy.
However, these reactions are thought to be more dominant in larger stars, and may help explain their formation and evolution.
“Now we finally have the first pioneering experimental confirmation of how stars heavier than the sun shine,” said researcher and astrophysicist Gianpaolo Bellini of the University of Milan.
Stars interact by fusing hydrogen into helium, which can happen through two different processes, the first is the so-called proton-proton chain, which includes only isotopes of hydrogen and helium, and this is prevalent in stars such as the sun.
But in larger stars, the CNO cycle in which these three elements help to catalyze nuclear reactions becomes a more important source of energy, and it also releases molecules called neutrinos.
These particles are nearly massless and are able to pass through ordinary matter without giving away any indication of their presence.
Physicists wanted to study these emissions from the Sun, though, and a better understanding of how the CNO cycle in our star works would provide insights into how larger stars shine, as this process predominates their nuclear fuel.
The discovery of CNO neutrinos revealed how much carbon, nitrogen and oxygen are made of them from the sun.
The discovery finally confirms that some of the Sun’s energy is actually being formed by the interactions of the CNO cycle, an idea first proposed in 1938.