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Gamma emission (γ emission) is observed when a nuclide is formed in an excited state and then decays to its ground state with the emission of a γ ray, a quantum of high-energy electromagnetic radiation.
The presence of a nucleus in an excited state is often indicated by an asterisk (*).
Whether electron capture or positron emission occurs is difficult to predict.
The choice is primarily due to kinetic factors, with the one requiring the smaller activation energy being the one more likely to occur.
Click here to learn about cloud chambers and to view an interesting Cloud Chamber Demonstration from the Jefferson Lab.
Beta (β) decay is the emission of an electron from a nucleus.
Iodine-131 is an example of a nuclide that undergoes β decay: Beta decay, which can be thought of as the conversion of a neutron into a proton and a β particle, is observed in nuclides with a large n:p ratio.
Electron capture occurs when one of the inner electrons in an atom is captured by the atom’s nucleus.
For example, potassium-40 undergoes electron capture: Electron capture occurs when an inner shell electron combines with a proton and is converted into a neutron.