A team led by Yuri Oganessian of the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research in Dubna, Russia, reports smashing together calcium-48 — an isotope with 20 protons and 28 neutrons — and berkelium-249, which has 97 protons and 152 neutrons. The collisions spit out either three or four neutrons, creating two different isotopes of an element with 117 protons.[...]
The researchers briefly spotted signs of element 117 during two runs of collisions lasting 70 days each. In their paper, the researchers report observing the heavier isotope of element 117 decay with a half-life of 78 milliseconds; they measured the lighter one’s half-life at 14 milliseconds.
The new element, which has yet to be named, slips into a place on the periodic table between elements 116 and 118, both of which have already been discovered. Such superheavy elements are usually very radioactive and decay away almost instantly. But many researchers think it is possible that even heavier elements may occupy an “island of stability” in which superheavy atoms stick around for a while.
Link via Wired | Image: NASA