Do You Know Fun Facts About Gamma Rays? Discover Some Here | Kidadl


Do You Know Fun Facts About Gamma Rays? Discover Some Here

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Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

When you hear the word 'light', you think of what your eyes can see, but the light you see is only a sliver of the total amount of light that surrounds us.

Electromagnetic radiation is the light that moves through the air by oscillating in waves at a constant speed, carrying energy. Two examples of electromagnetic waves being used that are very familiar to us are mobile phones and Wi-Fi signals moving through the air.

In our current standard of living, electromagnetic radiation is of utmost importance. This comprises microwaves, radio waves, visible light, UV, X-rays, infrared, and gamma rays. An electromagnetic spectrum is electromagnetic radiation with different frequencies and different wavelengths with varied photon energies.

The whole of the electromagnetic spectrum is not visible to human beings, but it has an essential role in our life. Astronomers observe various things like peering inside dense interstellar clouds and tracking the motion of dark, cold gases.

Radio telescopes are used to study the structure of our galaxy and infrared telescopes help astronomers look into the dust lanes of the milky way. X-rays and gamma rays are both electromagnetic radiations that overlap in the electromagnetic spectrum.

In this article, we can read more about gamma rays, their origin, uses, and interesting facts which make them unique in the electron beam.

What are the properties of gamma rays?

Gamma rays are electromagnetic waves like X-rays with high frequency and short wavelength. They are the most agile light packed with high energies, strong enough to pierce through metal or concrete barriers. There are numerous fun facts related to the gamma ray that are interesting in different ways.

They have the highest energy in the electromagnetic spectrum, and a gamma ray cannot be captured or reflected by mirrors, unlike X-rays and optical light. They can even pass through the space between atoms of the Gamma Ray Telescope, which uses a process called 'Compton Scattering' where a gamma ray hits an electron and loses energy, similar to a cue ball striking an eight ball.

These invisible radiations travel with the velocity of light, and unlike alpha or beta rays, they are not charged. When a gamma ray comes into contact with a photographic plate, a fluorescent effect is produced. Gamma rays have dangerous properties too. They ionize gas as they travel and they are highly penetrating rays, more so than alpha and beta particles. They are extremely dangerous due to ionizing radiation and it is very difficult to prevent them from entering the body. This exceptionally energetic form of rays can penetrate anything, making gamma rays very dangerous.

Gamma rays can destroy living cells, cause cancer and produce gene mutation. Ironically, the deadly effects of gamma rays are also used to treat cancer. Gamma rays do not undergo any reaction by the magnetic or electric field.

Uses Of Gamma Rays

A gamma ray is the most powerful and highly destructive type of electromagnetic radiation. This particularly dangerous product of atomic bombs and the sun's energy-making process can pick apart molecules piece-by-piece, shred DNA, make plants wither and die, and cause cancer. But gamma rays have many positive attributes too.

Gamma rays are used profusely in medicine, radiotherapy, the nuclear industry, and industries related to sterilization and disinfection. Gamma rays are very important in medicine and they can kill living cells without undergoing difficult surgery to remove cancerous cells. Ultraviolet rays of gamma radiation disinfect water by removing viruses, molds, algae, and bacteria along with other micro-organisms.

Gamma rays can penetrate the skin to reach and kill cancer cells. Doctors also use radiation therapy machines that emit gamma rays for treating people suffering from various types of cancer. In the medical field, doctors use gamma rays to find diseases by giving radioactive medicines that emit gamma rays to patients. They can also be used to find some types of diseases by measuring the gamma rays which come from a patient afterward. They are widely used in hospitals to sterilize pieces of equipment much as disinfectants do.

Medical applications of gamma rays are Radiation Therapy (radiotherapy) and Positron Emission Tomography (PET), which are very effective in treating cancer. During a PET scan, a radioactive pharmaceutical is injected into the patient's body. Gamma rays formed through pair annihilation produce an image of the required body parts, highlighting the location of the biological process under examination.

Scientists also use gamma rays to study the elements on other planets. The MESSENGER gamma ray spectrometer (GRS) is used to measure gamma rays emitted from atomic nuclei on the surface of Mercury struck by cosmic rays.

When chemical elements in rocks and soils are struck by cosmic rays, they release excess energy in the form of gamma rays. The information from this data helps scientists look for elements like magnesium, hydrogen, oxygen, iron, titanium, silicon, sodium, and calcium, which are geologically important.

Production Of Gamma Rays

The French chemist Paul Villard first observed the gamma ray in 1900 while investigating radiation from radium. The British physicist, Ernest Rutherford, named it gamma ray in 1903. The rays were named using the first three letters of the Greek alphabet following the order of alpha rays and beta rays. 

Gamma rays are mainly produced by nuclear reactions like nuclear fusion, nuclear fission, alpha decay, and gamma decay. There are several sources of gamma rays and they are produced by the most energetic and hottest objects in the universe, namely neutron stars and pulsars, regions around black holes, and supernova explosions. But, nuclear explosions, radioactive decay, and lightning can generate gamma waves on Earth.

Gamma rays produced by radioactive atoms have two isotopes, cobalt-60, and potassium-40. Among these, potassium-40 occurs naturally, whereas cobalt-60 is made in accelerators and is widely used in hospitals. All plants and animals have very small quantities of potassium-40, which is essential for life.

Another interesting source of gamma rays is gamma ray bursts (GRB). These cosmic rays were first observed in the '60s and they are visible now in the sky about once a day. These energetic objects are loaded with very high energy and the event lasts almost a fraction of seconds to several minutes, popping up like cosmic flashbulbs.

Gamma Ray is produced by radioactive isotopes.

Fun Facts About Gamma Rays

Did you know that if you could see gamma rays, the night sky would be unfamiliar and strange to you? Ever-changing visions would replace the usual sights of shining stars and galaxies.

It is very interesting to know that we are exposed to gamma radiation every day in very low doses and some of the very familiar objects we use daily emit safe levels of gamma radiation. Even though bananas and avocados are radioactive, there is nothing to worry about as it is just a small amount of radiation. 

The gamma ray moon would just appear as a round blob without any visible lunar feature and the moon is brighter than the sun in high-energy gamma rays. The gamma radiation would seep into solar flares, neutron stars, black holes, supernova, and active galaxies. 

Gamma ray astronomy is a branch of science that provides opportunities to explore deep space. It was developed only after getting gamma ray detectors above Earth's atmosphere using balloons or spacecraft.

The satellite Explorer XI carried the first telescope equipped with gamma rays to outer space in 1961, and it detected almost 100 cosmic photons of gamma rays. By exploring the universe, scientists can keep testing theories, perform experiments that are not possible on Earth and study new developments in space administration.

Scientists have discovered that gamma ray bursts shine hundreds of times brighter than a supernova and around a million-trillion times as bright as the sun, which has the energy to outshine all objects in the entire galaxy.

Gamma rays can only be seen with orbiting telescopes and high-altitude balloons as they are blocked by Earth's atmosphere. The swift satellite of NASA Science Mission Directorate has recorded a gamma ray burst 12.8 billion light-years away caused by a black hole, which is the most distant object ever detected.

Written By
Sridevi Tolety

<p>With a Master's degree in clinical research from Manipal University and a PG Diploma in journalism from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Sridevi has cultivated her passion for writing across various domains. She has authored a wide range of articles, blogs, travelogues, creative content, and short stories that have been published in leading magazines, newspapers, and websites. Sridevi is fluent in four languages and enjoys spending her spare time with loved ones. Her hobbies include reading, traveling, cooking, painting, and listening to music.</p>

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