Oxygen surprises again.  Physicists have noticed that it disintegrates into four particles

This past August, we reported on the discovery of the new heaviest isotope of oxygen, oxygen-28. Scientists were convinced that oxygen with 8 protons and 20 neutrons would be stable, because here we have two magic numbers that must guarantee stability. However, it turns out that’s not the case – this isotope also decays.

At the moment Latest scientific article Published in a scientific journal Physical review lettersScientists turned to a completely different isotope of the same element. The subject of study here was the much lighter oxygen isotope, oxygen-13, which has only eight protons and five neutrons. During the experiment, physicists were able to observe a completely new way of decaying an unstable element. Oxygen-13 decays into three helium nuclei (atoms that do not contain electrons), a proton and a positron.

Previously, astronomers had observed many other interesting patterns of radioactive decay in the beta+ decay process. In such a process, a proton is transformed into a neutron, while emitting some energy in the form of a positron and an antineutrino. The resulting atomic nucleus has enough energy at its disposal to remove excess particles and stabilize it.

Read also: Ytterbium is a strange metal. And when we’re exposed to gamma rays, it gets even weirder

What’s now registered is a whole new decay mode. Never before has beta decay produced three helium nuclei (alpha particles) and a proton. This can be very valuable information for researchers dealing with the properties of atomic nuclei before decay.

To observe the decay of oxygen-13, the scientists used the particle accelerator at the Cyclotron Institute at A&M University in Texas. It was there that the oxygen beam 13 was created for the first time, moving at 10 percent of the air speed. the speed of light, and then direct it towards the TexAT TPC (Texas Active Target Time Display Room).

Inside the carbon dioxide-filled detector, the beam-forming substance stops and then decays after 10 milliseconds. In the process of decay, positrons and neutrinos are emitted. However, due to the fact that only one atom nucleus could be inserted into the detector at a time, the researchers were able to look carefully at all the particles that formed and evaporated immediately after the decay.

The analysis of the data collected in this way using specialized programs made it possible to identify the effects of volatile particles in the gas. In this data, four particles formed at once during 1,200 beta decay processes, something that had not been observed before.

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