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This heavy element has a football-shaped atomic nucleus

Researchers used lasers to probe individual nobelium atoms

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12:03pm, June 12, 2018
Nobelium element abbreviation

BETTER SHAPE UP  The heavy element nobelium contains 102 protons in its nucleus. Scientists have measured its shape for the first time.

A heavy element’s nucleus is all bent out of shape.

Nobelium — element number 102 on the periodic table — has an atomic nucleus that is deformed into the shape of an American football, scientists report in the June 8 Physical Review Letters. The element is the heaviest yet to have its nucleus sized up.

By probing individual nobelium atoms with a laser, the team gauged the oblong shape of three nobelium isotopes: nobelium-252, -253 and -254. These different forms of the element each contain 102 protons, but varying numbers of neutrons. The shape is not uncommon for nuclei, but the researchers also determined that nobelium-252 and -254 contain fewer protons in the center of the nucleus than the outer regions — a weird configuration known as a “bubble nucleus&rdquo

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