Fr.: oscillation des neutrinos
The transition between neutrino types (→ neutrino flavor) which is a probabilistic consequence of → quantum mechanics. A neutrino, when produced, is in a quantum state which has three different masses. Therefore, an electron neutrino emitted during a reaction can be detected as a muon or tau neutrino. In other words, the flavor eigenstates are different from the propagation eigenstates. This phenomenon was discovered in → solar neutrinos as well as in → atmospheric neutrinos. Neutrino oscillation violates the conservation of the → lepton number; it is possible only if neutrinos have a mass. First predicted by Bruno Pontecorvo in 1957, neutrino oscillation has since been observed by several experiments. It resolved the long-standing → solar neutrino problem. The smaller the mass difference between the flavors, the longer the oscillation period, so that oscillations would not occur if all of the flavors were equal in mass or were massless. Moreover, the oscillation period increases with neutrino energy.