New results, namely the independent determination of the deuterium abundance in several quasar absorption systems, and the complementary determination of the cosmological baryon density by observations of anisotropies in the cosmic microwave background (CMB), allow for a reevaluation of the constraints on the relativistic particle content of the universe at primordial nucleosynthesis. Expressed in terms of the neutrino energy density, we find 1.7 < Nν < 3.5 (95 % CL). In particular, we show that phenomenological four neutrino models including a sterile state (not participating in SU(2)L ×U(1)Y interactions) unavoidably thermalize a fourth neutrino, and are highly disfavored in the standard minimal model of primordial nucleosynthesis, if the systematic uncertainty in the primordial helium abundance is small. We describe plausible extensions of the minimal model which evade this constraint.
To submit an update or takedown request for this paper, please submit an Update/Correction/Removal Request.