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Penetrating Power of Ionizing Radiation


alpha particle Alpha Particles-

An alpha particle has two protons and two neutrons, so it has a positive charge. (Since it has two protons it is a helium nucleus.)

example one

electron Beta Particles-

Beta emission is when a high speed electron (negative charge) leaves the nucleus. Beta emission occurs in elements with more neutrons than protons, so a neutron splits into a proton and an electron. The proton stays in the nucleus and the electron is emitted. 

example two

gamma ray symbolGamma Rays-

A nucleus which is in an excited state may emit one or more photons (packets of electromagnetic radiation) of discrete energies. The emission of gamma rays does not alter the number of protons or neutrons in the nucleus but instead has the effect of moving the nucleus from a higher to a lower energy state (unstable to stable). Gamma ray emission frequently follows beta decay, alpha decay, and other nuclear decay processes.


Positron emission involves a particle that has the same mass as an electron but a positive charge. The particle is released from the nucleus when a proton splits into a neutron and positive electron.

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