Additional light sterile neutrinos and cosmology

Thomas D. Jacques, Lawrence Krauss, Cecilia Lunardini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


Tantalizing cosmological and terrestrial evidence suggests the number of light neutrinos may be greater than 3, motivating a careful reexamination of cosmological bounds on extra light species. Big bang nucleosynthesis constrains the number of relativistic neutrino species present during nucleosynthesis, NeffBBN, while measurements of the cosmic microwave background (CMB) angular power spectrum constrain the effective energy density in relativistic neutrinos at the time of matter-radiation equality, NeffCMB. There are a number of scenarios where new sterile neutrino species may have different contributions to ΔNeffBBN and ΔNeffCMB, for masses that may be relevant to reconciling cosmological constraints with various terrestrial claims of neutrino oscillations. We consider a scenario with two sterile neutrinos and explore whether partial thermalization of the sterile states can ease the tension between cosmological constraints on NeffBBN and terrestrial data. We then investigate the effect of a nonzero neutrino mass on their contribution to the radiation abundance, finding reductions in ΔNeffCMB of more than 5% for neutrinos with masses above 0.5 eV. While the effects we investigate here could play a role, we nevertheless find that two additional light sterile neutrinos species cannot fit all the data at the 95% confidence level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number083515
JournalPhysical Review D - Particles, Fields, Gravitation and Cosmology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Apr 15 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nuclear and High Energy Physics
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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