Neutrinos rarely interact with other particles; they can pass through the entire planet as if it were empty space. In order to study such particles, scientists need to create an intense beam of them and send them continuously through a large detector for long periods of time.
Scientists suspect that neutrinos played a major role in the evolution of the universe, contributing to its mass as much as stars and planets. The NOvA experiment will study the strange properties of neutrinos, especially the elusive transition of muon neutrinos into electron neutrinos.
The experiment will begin taking data in 2013 and construction will be complete in January 2014. The first run will last six years.