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Invisible neutrino decay in precision cosmology

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  • Gabriela Barenboim, University of Valencia
  • ,
  • Joe Zhiyu Chen, University of New South Wales
  • ,
  • Steen Hannestad
  • Isabel M. Oldengott, University of Valencia
  • ,
  • Thomas Tram
  • Yvonne Y.Y. Wong, University of New South Wales

We revisit the topic of invisible neutrino decay in the precision cosmological context, via a first-principles approach to understanding the cosmic microwave background and large-scale structure phenomenology of such a non-standard physics scenario. Assuming an effective Lagrangian in which a heavier standard-model neutrino νH couples to a lighter one νl and a massless scalar particle φ via a Yukawa interaction, we derive from first principles the complete set of Boltzmann equations, at both the spatially homogeneous and the first-order inhomogeneous levels, for the phase space densities of νH, νl, and φ in the presence of the relevant decay and inverse decay processes. With this set of equations in hand, we perform a critical survey of recent works on cosmological invisible neutrino decay in both limits of decay while νH is ultra-relativistic and non-relativistic. Our two main findings are: (i) in the non-relativistic limit, the effective equations of motion used to describe perturbations in the neutrino-scalar system in the existing literature formally violate momentum conservation and gauge invariance, and (ii) in the ultra-relativistic limit, exponential damping of the anisotropic stress does not occur at the commonly-used rate ΓT =(1/τ0) (mνH/EνH)3, but at a rate ∼ (1/0) (mνH/EνH)5. Both results are model-independent. The impact of the former finding on the cosmology of invisible neutrino decay is likely small. The latter, however, implies a significant revision of the cosmological limit on the neutrino lifetime τ0 from τ0old ⪆ 1.2 109 s (mνH/50 meV)3 to τ0 ⪆ (4 105 → 4 106) s (mνH/50 meV)5.

Original languageEnglish
Article number087
JournalJournal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021

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