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Scientists have recorded the rarest event to ever been detected: a special type of radioactive decay in xenon-124. In their search for the elusive particle, they observed something else entirely. They are hunting for dark matter using an incredibly powerful detector full of liquid xenon.
The research was published in Nature on April 24. The project consisted of over 160 scientists aiming to discover dark matter using the XENON1T detector.
“We actually saw this decay happen,” says one of the researchers, Ethan Brown from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in New York. “It’s the longest, slowest process that has ever been directly observed, and our dark matter detector was sensitive enough to measure it.”
“Drugs are absorbed by the body with a half-life of minutes to hours, organisms reproduce with a half-life of days or years, chemical reactions happen with a half-life of seconds,” explains Ethan Brown, a co-author on the study. “The half-life for this process is the slowest one ever observed, more than a trillion times longer than the entire history of the universe.”
Xenon-124 is considered the rarest event known to science because its half-life is 1.8 × 10^22 years (18,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).
“It’s amazing to have witnessed this process, and it says that our detector can measure the rarest thing ever recorded.”
“Electrons in double-capture are removed from the innermost shell around the nucleus, and that creates room in that shell,” says Brown. “The remaining electrons collapse to the ground state, and we saw this collapse process in our detector.”
Source: Text; www.sciencealert.com, www.cnet.com
Image credit; www.cnet.com
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