Illustration of Gamma ray

1900 Gamma ray

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Paul Ulrich Villard physics Illustration of Gamma ray

Gamma ray

Ernest Rutherford identified two types of radioactive decay. Alpha decay created rays that a thin aluminum sheet blocked. Beta decay created rays that penetrated aluminum. Paul Ulrich Villard studied radiation from radium and identified a third type of ray that, like beta rays, penetrated a lead shield, but, unlike beta rays, were not deflected by a magnetic field. Rutherford named this third type of decay with the third letter of the Greek alphabet, gamma.

Gamma rays

Gamma rays are energetic photons emitted from excited atomic nuclei because the atom’s been struck by lightning because it’s inherently unstable because it’s been created in a nuclear reaction because it’s energized by a pulsar, quasar, or blazar.

Gamma ray guns

Gamma rays kill bacteria to sterilize your peaches. Gamma rays flow from magnetars deep in the Andromeda galaxy. Gamma rays stream from guns wielded by beasts from planet Φar.

At the time, they didn’t know what these rays were. They didn’t know that alpha rays are helium-4 nuclei; they didn’t know that beta rays are electrons; they didn’t know that gamma rays are, like X-rays, photons. X-rays are emitted by excited electrons; gamma rays were emitted by the decay of nuclei or other particles.

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