Interesting facts on carbon dating

In older stars that have burned most of their hydrogen, leftover helium accumulates.

Each helium nucleus has two protons and two neutrons.

Atoms are arranged as a nucleus surrounded by an electron cloud, with electrons zinging around at different distances from the nucleus.

Chemists conceive of these distances as shells, and define the properties of atoms by what is in each shell, according to the University of California, Davis.

Carbon-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, meaning that after that time, half of the carbon-14 in a sample decays away, according to the University of Arizona.

Because organisms stop taking in carbon-14 after death, scientists can use carbon-14's half-life as a sort of clock to measure how long it has been since the organism died.

As the sixth-most abundant element in the universe, carbon forms in the belly of stars in a reaction called the triple-alpha process, according to the Swinburne Center for Astrophysics and Supercomputing.

Under very hot temperatures — greater than 100,000,000 Kelvin (179,999,540.6 F) — the helium nuclei begin to fuse, first as pairs into unstable 4-proton beryllium nuclei, and eventually, as enough beryllium nuclei blink into existence, into a beryllium plus a helium.

The end result: Atoms with six protons and six neutrons — carbon.

Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope of carbon used by archaeologists to date objects and remains.

Carbon-14 is naturally occurring in the atmosphere.

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