Facts about gamma rays

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While almost all electromagnetic waves have been put to brilliant use, there exists yet another wave that has crossed all imaginable boundaries to prove the worth of science in everyday life.
The field of medicinal diagnostics and therapeutics has evolved and improved by leaps and bounds simply due to the effects of these electromagnetic radiations.

These high energy waves emitted from the nucleus of a radionuclide, finds importance in more than the already unlimited medical scope. Its use in communication and study in astronomy has also left scientists in awe and hence inquisitive to find out more about these waves.

Facts about gamma radiation:

1. Production of Gamma Radiation.
Gamma rays are produced from the excited nucleus of a radioactive element. An excited radioactive element decays to form its daughter element by a process called isometric transition. Gamma rays are emitted during an isometric transition from higher energy nuclear state to lower energy state. This gamma ray has an energy equal to the difference of two energy states of excited nucleus.

2. History of Gamma ray discover
Gamma radiation was first discovered in 1896 by the French physicist Henri Becquerel. While working on an experiment, he discovered that radioactive Radium-226 emitted gamma rays.

3. Properties of Gamma rays.
Gamma rays are electromagnetic waves that have no mass or charge. They travel at the speed of light that is equal to 3.8×10-8 meters per second. They are invisible to human eye.

4. Energy, Frequency and Wavelength specifications of Gamma Rays.
Gamma rays have shorter wavelengths and larger frequencies. Thus, they are classified as high energy radiations.

5. Are Gamma rays and X- Rays the same?
A common confusion that has arisen in the minds of all scientists working with this radiation is whether this wave is similar to those of X -Rays. Though these radiations have almost similar properties and are classified in the electromagnetic spectrum, Gamma rays and X rays differ in the method by which they originate.
While Gamma rays originate from the nucleus of an excited radioactive element, X- rays are produced due to the transfer of an electron from one shell to another.Gamma rays generally have higher frequency than X- rays.

6. The Gamma camera.

A Gamma camera is a widely used method by doctors to diagnose conditions inside the body. Commonly observed organs include the heart, thyroid and lungs.
This camera consists of a radiopharmaceutical element labelled with a gamma emitting radionuclide. When the element gets fixed on to the organ under consideration, gamma radiation is emitted. These radiations are detected and imaged for diagnostic purposes.

7. Gamma rays in cancer treatment.

High frequency gamma rays show the ability to kill living cells. This property has its use in cancer treatment, to kill tumors and excess cell growth. This process is called teletherapy.

8. Dangers of Gamma Rays.

Gamma rays, as mentioned earlier have high energies and are capable of killing living cells. When targeted at the wrong site, the effects of the radiation may lead to death of cells and other severe consequences such as gene mutations.

9. Gamma bursts in the sky.

Sometimes, the sky is lit with bright flashes that are invisible to the human eye. These flashes occur within the galaxy and are due to gamma rays. This phenomenon can only be captured by satellite cameras and is commonly referred to as the ‘Gamma Burst’.

10. Sources of Gamma radiations.
NASA has given a list of the top 10 sources of Gamma rays in outer space. Topping this list is The Crab Nebula.
The crab Nebula is located in the Taurus constellation and has been the major source of gamma radiation emission for many years.

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