Scientists discover that oxygen atoms are breaking apart in ways no one has ever seen before

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Most things around us, such as air, water and stones, are stable and hardly change. But some things are not stable and can change into something else.

This is called radioactive decay. Scientists recently discovered a new way a certain type of oxygen atom changes and breaks apart.

This discovery can help us learn more about how atoms work.

So what did they discover?

When certain types of atoms change, they usually turn into other atoms and release small particles and energy. This is normal and happens all the time.

But scientists found something unique in an oxygen atom that was made up of fewer parts (neutrons) than regular oxygen.

This oxygen fractured in a way no one had ever seen before. It broke into three smaller pieces of helium, a proton (part of the atomic nucleus) and a positron (something like a mirror image of an electron).

How did they find that?

To produce these special types of oxygen, scientists at Texas A&M University used a large machine called a cyclotron. This machine can accelerate particles almost as fast as light. They then shot these fast particles into another machine called TexAT TPC, which is filled with carbon dioxide gas.

The oxygen atoms remained in this gas and waited there for a short time before changing and breaking apart.

The scientists then used computers to examine the traces left by these broken particles in the gas. This allowed them to see exactly how the oxygen broke apart. They found that breaking into four pieces after a change is very rare – it only happens once in every 1,200 changes of oxygen atom.

Why is that important? Scientists are trying to understand more and more about how the world around us works, down to tiny particles like atoms. By watching this particular oxygen atom break apart in new ways, they can learn more about how atoms behave and what they look like inside.

This discovery can teach us more about radioactive decay, which has many uses and effects on our lives. For example, we use radioactive substances in medicine to treat cancer and in power plants to generate electricity. By understanding how atoms break apart, scientists can make these processes safer and more effective.

The research team published their exciting results in a scientific journal called Physical Examination Letters.

They are excited about their discovery and look forward to learning more about how atoms work. This is just one step in the ongoing quest to unlock the mysteries of the universe down to its smallest parts.

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Source: US Department of Energy.

Laura Coffey

Laura Coffey is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Laura Coffey joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing:

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