BETA EMISSION              topics

Beta emission is a very different process to alpha.

It actually occurs through the transformation of a neutron into a proton or vice versa through what is called "the Weak Nuclear Force" or "Weak Interaction". This process has proved to be a relative of Electromagnetism although it is a far weaker force than that ( though still stronger than Gravity ).

The process is ESSENTIAL in the formation of elements in stars and so in the existence of stars! ( The process allows neutron formation from protons. )

When we look at the lighter elements, those off the line of "stability" tend to decay via beta.

Those elements with "too many neutrons" decay by electron emission ( beta-negative ) while those with "inadequate" neutrons decay by beta-positive emission - so called "positrons" or "antimatter electrons". ( The latter decay is used in the medical scans called PET scans - Positron-Electron Tomography. ) An example of the latter is

Gamma emission can also take place after beta emission although no spectral lines are emitted in this range.

With this emission comes one of the strangest of all subatomic particles - the NEUTRINO , n , or neutral little one ( Click for excellent reference )

This critter is only slowly being understood. There are three, associated with the electron, the muon and the tauon ( which are more massive versions of the electron ) with corresponding "anti matter" variants. It is very elusive but one detector has been "watching" those from the Sun's core for over 35 years. It takes about 2 million km of Pb to stop half of those coming from the Sun! They are passing through all of us at an enormous rate of at least millions each second, but doing no damage.

Detectors all watched neutrinos arrive from the supernova in the Magellenic Cloud of 1987 - a wonderful feat! ( Ref 1 )