For the first time in history, scientists have detected the energy cycle that fuels the stars.
In an article published Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature, physicists described their discovery of neutrinos, confirming a nearly century old, 1930s-era theoretical prediction about how the energy of stars is created, NBC reported.
“It’s really a breakthrough for solar and stellar physics,” Gioacchino Ranucci, one of the project’s researchers from the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics, told the outlet.
The discovery is being lauded as a landmark finding and one of the greatest discoveries in physics to happen in the last 1,000 years, the outlet said.
The neutrinos can be traced to the fusion of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen, also known as the CNO cycle, that happens inside the sun.
Scientists used the ultra-sensitive Borexino detector at INFN’s Gran Sasso laboratory outside of Rome, the largest underground research facility in the world, to make the discovery.
Using the machine, physicists were able to see the main nuclear reaction that the majority of stars, including our sun, uses to fuse hydrogen into helium, which produces the universe’s main fuel source, the outlet reported.
The discovery is the only direct sign of CNO fusion that’s ever been seen anywhere.
“This is the first evidence that the CNO cycle is at work in the sun and the stars,” Ranucci told the outlet.
“This discovery takes us a step closer to understanding the composition of the core of our sun, and the formation of heavy stars,” added particle physicist Gabriel Orebi Gann from the University of California, Berkeley, who is an author in the study but didn’t participate in the research.
Orebi Gann said the new ability to detect neutrinos can be used to investigate some of the universe’s most darkest, unreachable corners, NBC reported.
The scientist further explained the asymmetry between neutrinos and their antiparticles could explain the mystery of how the earth even came to be in the first place and why there’s anything at all.