A team of physicists affiliated with institutions in Australia, Switzerland and Austria has made the most accurate measurement to date of the half life of iron-60. In their paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, the team describes their approach and note that their efforts will now allow the isotope to be used to date astronomical events.
On most places on Earth, iron is found as iron-56, a stable element. Elsewhere in the universe, however, it is found with four additional neutrons which make it a radioactive isotope—iron-60. The isotope is considered by cosmologists to be a radionuclide which has gone extinct—they believe it was created by multiple processes in the early stages of the development of our solar system. Bits of the isotope have been found to exist naturally on Earth only on ocean beds, and are believed to have got there as part of meteorites.
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