Mainz scientists participating in both the Rosetta mission and the Borexino experiment nominated as top-10 breakthroughs of the year


The journal Physics World has named the first landing of a research probe on a comet as its 2014 Breakthrough of the Year. The Physics World editorial team decided to single out the historic achievement of the scientists working on the Rosetta mission for its significance and fundamental importance to space science. A team headed by Dr. Göstar Klingelhöfer at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) developed the alpha particle x-ray spectrometer on board Philae, the lander of the ESA mission to the comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko. On November 12, 2014 the lander touched down on the comet after a ten-year journey aboard the Rosetta spacecraft. Physics World is the journal produced for members of the UK-based Institute of Physics (IOP), one of the largest associations of physicists in the world.

Listed among its ten most important 2014 breakthroughs of the year were also the recent discoveries of the Borexino experiment, in which a team of physicists from Mainz University led by Professor Michael Wurm are participating. Shielded deep within the bowels of the Gran Sasso mountain, the experiment is designed to detect neutrinos, an elusive form of particle created during nuclear fusion in the core of the sun. Although billions of such particles penetrate every square centimeter of the planet Earth every second, they are extremely difficult to capture. For the first time, Borexino has been able to directly detect neutrinos created during one of the most important nuclear reactions that occur in the sun, the fusion of two hydrogen nuclei.