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Q & A: Minimum and maximum masses of nucleii

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Most recent answer: 12/23/2016
Q:
My question concerns the number of discrete particles in an atom's nucleus. I assume hydrogen has the fewest and guess uranium the most. What are the highest and lowest numbers of discrete particles possible in a nucleus?
- terry seaman (age 69)
maple valley wa usa
A:

You are correct about the lightest nucleus being hydrogen which has one lonely proton.   The next lightest is deuterium which has an additional neutron.   The heaviest stable nucleus is as you guess, uranium.   There are many more nuclei that have lots more protons and neutrons in them but they are unstable and decay via beta decay or just break apart into other more stable ones.  As usual, you have to conserve energy and total nucleon number. 

Take a look at https://www.historyrundown.com/heaviest-element-in-the-universe for a nice discussion.

LeeH

 


(published on 12/23/2016)

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